In Countdown to Olympic Curling, I calculated that the stones used in curling do not exert enough force to melt the ice. Did anyone do the math and figure out the answer to "What's the maximum contact area for an ice skate so that a 60 kg figure skater will melt the ice under her?"
Well, Science Friday (or Robert Carpick, professor and curler) did the math and it would take a gargantuan ice skater. So the textbooks are wrong. UC Berkeley chemistry professor Gabor Somorjai and his lab also explain. I just love the mental picture of every other water molecule vibrating up and down but not side to side. Remember how people danced to punk rock?
Speaking of rock and ice, there is one instance where the pressure is absolutely positively large enough to melt ice--rock glaciers.
Isabelle Glacier (pictured above in a 1920 photo from the Library of Congress) with a geomorphology grad student who had also recently relocated from Berkeley to Boulder for grad school. I got altitude sick so we never made it up to Isabelle Glacier.
However, he pointed to a pile of dirty ice and rocks and announced that we had climbed high enough to reach a glacier.
"Where?", I asked.
I just saw a pile of rocks and a little patch of dirty ice/snow.
"It's a rock glacier. It's mostly underground."
Who knew that glaciers can be like icebergs, lurking below the surface? The pressure above melts the layer at the bottom, which then flows downhill and refreezes. The toe of the glacier inches downhill underground, grinding up the rock into soil along the way.
I should have remembered that water moves even when you can't see it from the artesian well on CA highway 92, between San Mateo and Half Moon Bay. In order for the water in the artesian wells to reach the surface, they must have flowed from somewhere higher. The only thing higher than the coast mountain range is the Sierra Nevadas.
Wow, there is so much more than apparent to the eye. I never thought about water and ice the same way after that day.
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