Guests at Frost Science are in for a treat this year: We have a brand-new, live holiday show that pits the roaring hot chemistry of fire against the freezing reactions of liquid nitrogen. Featuring the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser, this show includes three live science experiments designed to warm (and chill!) your hearts. Whether you have seen the show yet or not, you might be wondering about the science behind these experiments—we break two of them down below.
The Fire Whoosh is one of the experiments you might see during the show. This dramatic chemical reaction illustrates the explosive release of chemical energy during a simple combustion reaction.
To create the whoosh during the show, the Heat Miser pours rubbing alcohol into a large, sturdy polycarbonate (a type of plastic) bottle. They then swirl it around in the bottle to allow the alcohol to turn from liquid into a vapor, filling the bottle with flammable gas that serves as a fuel source. With oxygen from the atmosphere and a spark from a lighter’s flame, fire erupts with a WHOOSH! This chemical reaction creates carbon dioxide, water vapor, and a very enthusiastic crowd.
Not to be outdone, the Snow Miser’s experiment is equally showy. One of the Snow Miser’s favorite experiments is the called the Vortex Cannon. It uses liquid nitrogen—at a cool -321° F— to create rings of gas, which the Snow Miser shoots at the audience and the Heat Miser.
How do they do it? First, you’ll see the Snow Miser pour a small amount of liquid nitrogen in a container. Then they add a touch of hot water. This heats the liquid nitrogen very quickly, transforming it into a gas, which cools the air inside the container and creates a cloud of water vapor. These physical changes in the liquid nitrogen, air, and water form the misty rings the Snow Miser spreads around the room like holiday cheer.
Although some of the supplies the Misers use during the show are easy to purchase or find around your house, we stress that you should not try either of these experiments at home and never without the proper equipment, including safety gloves and goggles. But we’ve saved you the effort!
Stop by the Ocean Gallery stage show inside the Power of Science exhibition from Monday, December 26 through Saturday, January 7. The show will take place daily at 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Meet the Heat and Snow Misers and see these magical reactions in person. You might even see a mystery third reaction we haven’t described here, as we learn whether fire or ice rule the holiday season.