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Why Does Warm Water Freeze Faster Than Cold?

Ice on windscreen
If you’ve ever tried (and failed!) to melt the ice on your car windshield using hot water instead of cold water or thrown a cup of hot water into the air on a freezing day and watched it fall to the ground as snow, then you’ve seen the Mpemba effect in action.

In June this year the RSC and Hermes 2012 launched a competition asking the public to answer this age-old question of why hot water sometimes freezes faster than cold water, and over 22 000 people put forward their ideas. From academic papers and poems about penguins to animations and comic-book strips, and even setting the answer to music, the variety of submissions is astounding. 

Although not everyone can be a winner, the competition organisers wanted to showcase as many of the entries as possible and have been working hard selecting some of the most interesting and creative submissions for your enjoyment – go along to the site and check out the latest featured entry!

Today’s star is 23 year old art student Alison Boult (at right), who experiments with stop-motion animation to explain how convection currents contribute to hot water freezing faster than cold water. Look out for tomorrow’s submission from Zachary Smith: one of our youngest entrants.

If you want to have your say in who wins the £1000 prize, get involved by voting on the competition entries. The public voting site is based on a genetic algorithm: when you go to the site you'll be presented with two entries and asked to say which you prefer.

Vote for your favourite Mpemba Effect explanation

The entries that get voted for frequently make it through to the next round, while those that don't eventually drop out of the pool. Vote as many times as you like – the more the better! – and be a part of the public peer review process.

Posted by Isolde Radford on Oct 18, 2012 3:10 PM Europe/London

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