Week of January 29, 2023

The Coolest Facts Around


For this week’s first fact, let’s break the ice. This term for a conversation starter comes from special ships – ice breakers – that broke ice and permitted passage and progress, just like conversational ice breakers do for acquaintanceships.


For about the last 100 years, an unlikely thing has been described as happening “when hell freezes over.” Notably, however, one of literature’s most graphic descriptions of hell, Dante’s Inferno, has Satan himself encased in ice up to the waist.


The larger part of icebergs floating at sea can be found under the water, with only the small top sticking out. Hence referring to “the tip of the iceberg” to represent the much smaller part of the issue or story.


The saying “it doesn’t cut any ice” regarding someone or something which has little effect is surprisingly literal. Blunt ice skate blades leave little impression on the ice, but sharpened ones permit better skating and leave a cut.


Because off the unique bonds between water molecules, water actually expands when it freezes into ice, making ice only 90% as dense as the same volume of water. For this reason, ice floats on water, and natural water bodies freeze from the top down, allowing aquatic life to continue to live near the liquid bottom.


The notion of putting ice in a specialized building to keep the food and drink inside cool may go back to 1780 BC, but immediately before mechanical refrigerators were used in most 20th century houses, blocks of ice were delivered to homes to place in ice boxes, which kept contents cool until that ice melted. Ice harvesters, collecting ice from frozen ponds and lakes with specialized tools, could be well paid for the heavy blocks, although the work was difficult and dangerous.


We owe much of the shape of the modern earth to the last Ice Age, which ended about 11,700 years ago. During this chilly era, glaciers covered about 1/4 of the land, humans migrated far across the earth to populate new places, and retreating glaciers reshaped the land and carved out current fresh water bodies large and small, including the North America’s Great Lakes.