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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jul 3, 2005 2:29:28 GMT -6
How Ice Melts: Longstanding Mystery Solved
Until now, scientists could not explain why ice cubes in your drink melt. They've known the basics, but the details remained elusive.
A breakthrough new study, announced today, supports a leading theory that melting starts when the fundamental structure of matter begins to crack.
Melting is considered a basic phenomenon in physics. An understanding of how it works is crucial to gaining a firm grasp on the physical world.
"Yet major details about the mechanisms that drive the melting of an ice cube are missing," said Arjun Yodh of the University of Pennsylvania. "Superficially, the principle is straightforward. As a solid heats up, molecules within the ice acquire more energy and jiggle around more, driving the transition from a solid to a liquid. This is true in part, but reality is richer and more complex."
The problem is that the earliest phase of melting has never been seen. Scientists can't see the atoms involved because they are so small and because they are hidden in the structure of solid material.