Last week I was visiting Fargo to do some work with the Microsoft Business Frameworks team. In the weeks leading up to the visit, our co-workers in North Dakota harassed us Redmond’ites with a variety of emails explaining how cold it had become. Since I have now experienced -22 Fahrenheit (or feels like -47 with “wind chill”), I will be the first to admit that those warnings probably had some technical merit. However, one of the emails suggested what seemed like a fanciful myth designed specifically to rattle us mild weather loving Washingtonians:

When the temperature is lower then -15 below zero, very hot water will vaporize immediately when thrown into the air.

After trying the experiment several times in person – I am now a believer. It is one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen in person. The interesting aspect to the experiment is that it does not happen with cold water. However, even stranger then the actual phenomenon is that not one of my science educated co-workers can explain to me in exact terms why the phenomenon happens. To me, that fact is even more bizarre since generally every computer science guy (including myself) fancies themselves as a renaissance man of the sciences.

However, I guess I can accept the fact that our collected amateur knowledge of physics has it limits. However, from what I can tell, there also seems to be nothing but speculation about the phenomenon on the web. Thereby, it would be much appreciated if anyone can explain to me this phenomenon… until then I will just have to assume it is “magic”.