The Mpemba effect bears the name of Erosa Mpemba, who reintroduced this classical physics problem to twentieth century science. The Mpemba effect is simply the phenomenon that hot water freezes before cold water. Scientific explanations have come up shorthanded for many years, and few experiments have been conducted on the matter.

Initially, physicists were tempted to conjure up teleological properties of materials. The idea was that the relative difference in materials temperatures naturally produced the observed effects. While this theory was helpful it was not satisfactory for most scientists.

The common explanation became that the cold water contained more ambient air bubbles than the hot water. Since gas is a fairly good insulator, this explanation maintains that the initial heat of the cold water is maintained for a longer period than the warm water.

Studies by NASA and the Smithsonian reject this common hypothesis, favoring instead false freezing of the hot water. It “supercools” faster than the cold water, but superficially freezes before reaching the freezing point. I’m not sure what their underlying physical interpretations were.

There was a recent physics discovery that the bottom of a static slinky moves last. This amazing video has had significant contributions to scientific charisma, and has had a little bit of a viral status. This has made me rethink about the Mpemba effect. If one imagines the molecular world, complex particles and compounds colliding with each other millions of times per second, the warm particles are moving faster. I think that this might have a lot to do with the speed with which temperature changes occur. It might be that the entropy of the system spontaneously allows supercooling, There might also be some uniform or chaotic pattern behind which the change occurs.

In any case the simplicity of the problem and the dumfoundedness of our science, illustrate that there are in fact MANY stupidly simple physical problems that we have yet to adequately describe. If the frontiers of DIY physics interests you, I recommend subscribing to a youtube channel, . He specifically runs his shows and interviews with the purpose of helping people struggle with their own explanations and interpretations. I highly recommend this channel.


2 responses »

  1. James Frey says:

    h2o at room temperature Is “Balanced” between freezing and boiling, solid and gas. This state of balance is as perfect as it can be so naturally it will resist change more effectively i would think. I am not educated so i cant explain exactly what is going on the realm of physics and chemistry but this is how my simple mind can be content with this Mpemba effect. The water with more balance maintains longer and is in no hurry to change. The hot water is in an unbalanced/unstable state.
    “in fact MANY stupidly simple physical problems that we have yet to adequately describe.” this is me ^

    this is a philosophical explaination i guess

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