Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Liquid Nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen (-196 degrees centigrade) is fun stuff, don't let anybody tell you otherwise. You can put things in, take them out, smash them against the floor, and howl in unholy glee as normally unshatterable things such as flowers, small animals or your finger fly into a million pieces. Also, you can stick a banana in and then use said banana to hammer in a nail into the wall. Or give it to a monkey for some Schadenfreude. You can make fog, clean your floor, shock-freeze your strawberries so they do not get all squishy when they thaw up, and you can make wicked ice-cream out of everything remotely liquid. I have been planning to make beer ice-cream for nearly a decade now, and soon, soon the time will be right.

Because just a floor above my lab there is a huge helium liquefaction plant, which they use to get - you guessed it - liquid helium. And liquid nitrogen is more or less a byproduct of the process, so we got loads.

Sigh. It is not possible for me to tell you how hard I have to fight the temptation to throw my cell phone into the dewar every time I go to get some for the lab. I just have to know if it will still work afterwards. Maybe it will get superconducting and make calls really fast? But then, for that to happen I would have to drop it into liquid helium, which is much colder. Which does not reduce the temptation, because of the liquefaction plant mentioned above...


  1. no no no, you got it all wrong. the waves do not go faster because your mobile gets superconducting. plus I REALLY doubt there are any superconducting materials in your standard mobile... sorry to disappoint you there.

  2. Lies, filthy lies! There is a bit of aluminium in there, and also solder, which is a mixture of lead and tin, and those are all superconducting at 4.2 Kelvin .

    And as for what would happen... uh no idea. Probably short-circuit the battery, which would heat up and explode and rein death and destruction everywhere. Booom! I have to try that.