Christmas Eve and Ten Pounds of Dry Ice

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Liz and I had several stops to make. First, we were going to visit Katie and Dan in Cedar Lake, Indiana. From there, we were going to trek down to attend Midnight Mass with my grandmother, in Indianapolis.

As part of the Christmas gifts we would be giving our nieces/nephews, I needed to get a hold of some dry ice. I called around to several places, and the only spot I could find was Polar Ice Company. So on the 24th, around 8:00 AM, I pulled in and proceeded to buy a 10 pound slab of the stuff (the smallest size they sell). Quite reasonable too, at only $7.

There were a few slots that were built into the wall, with signs indicating different types of ice. I was half-thinking the ice would shoot out of those wall slots, but I ended up having to go into the office and place my order directly.

Funny thing – while I was at the window, three other people got in line behind me. I kept thinking “It’s eight in the morning! Who are you people, and why do you need ice this early?”

After placing my order, I walked around to the side into some loading dock area. A guy saw me wandering around and asked me what I needed. When I told him about the dry ice, he asked for my ticket and proceeded to cut up my slab.

I also bought two styrofoam containers, and had them split up the 10 pound block into four chunks – putting two chunks in each box. But when they handed everything to me, the dry ice was wrapped separate, in several sheets of newspaper.

I asked the guy if he could place the ice in the box for me, as I had forgotten to bring gloves. He then proceeded to move the chunks into the boxes using his bare hands. I was pretty impressed.

By now you’re thinking – dry ice? What in the world? I know. You’ll see in a little bit.

The dry ice sat in my car for most of the day, as I ended up going in to work for part of the morning. I was told the dry ice usually lasts about 24 – 36 hours, so I figured it would make it through Christmas Day if necessary.

I showed up at Katie and Dan’s around 4:30 PM, and got to join their family, Liz, Julie and Bob, and Dan’s father (Rich) and stepmom (Diane) for dinner. It was a lovely meal put together by Dan, as Katie had worked a night-shift at the hospital. The photo is a bit fuzzy, since the camera had been sitting in my car, outside, for most of the day.

After dinner, I went outside with Cameron and Dan. I told Cameron part of his gift was in my car, and we had to go and break it on the ground. The puzzled look on his face was pretty awesome.

Per the instructions of the guy at Polar Ice, I learned the best way to break dry ice is to hit it against a surface, or throw it against the ground. I let Cameron pick one of the boxes, and then let him smash both pieces on the ground outside. We then gathered up the pieces, and put them back in the cooler.

A brief science interlude: dry ice is extremely cold, and if I’m reading the Wikipedia article correctly… it’s somewhere between -109.3 F and -69.5 F. Dry ice is a solid form of carbon dioxide, and has a lower temperature than regular water ice.

The thing with dry ice is that, through a process known as sublimation, it shifts from a solid to a gas without an intermediate liquid stage.

If you’ve seen it done in science classes, you know the cool “fog effect” that happens when you mix dry ice and water. The present we got Cameron was basically this experiment, but with a slight twist. Luckily for us, Cameron had never experienced dry ice before… so it got to be a cool thing on multiple counts for him.

One final note: huge, huge thanks to my friend Juliet who sent me this video back in mid-November. After seeing this, I got the idea to get the bubble kit as a Christmas gift, because it just looked like a ton of fun. Without Juliet’s link, I don’t think I would have discovered such a cool experiment, and neither would my nieces and nephews!

So now, without further adieu, here’s Cameron playing with his dry ice:

Julie manning the lid, as Cameron prepares to create a bubble.

We learned quickly that certain types of gloves work better, at holding bubbles. If you were to touch a bubble with your hand… the oils on your skin would pop the bubble instantly. Other gloves (like leather ones), had the same problem.

Cameron used a pair of the gloves that came with the kit, and it was awesome to watch his expression as he caught and “held” a bubble.

Savannah got in on the fun a bit two, as they each used a glove to hold bubbles. Here, Cameron is creating a bubble for Liz to play with.

Cam, staring intently at his bubble. I love how they kind of look like these miniature crystal balls.

One fun aspect of this experiment is that it requires the involvement of multiple people. It’s easier to have one person man the lid (which controls the speed and rate of the gas), one person dipping the spout, and someone else to catch and play with the bubbles.

The components needed for this are pretty basic, but since I didn’t want to spend the time tracking down a pickle jar and tubing… I opted to go for the kit that Steve Spangler sells on his website. It comes with pretty much everything you need (dish soap, gloves, tubing), and all you need to provide is the dry ice. And some inquisitive minds. Well worth the money, in my opinion… and since he came up with this idea, I’m happy to reward him for the concept.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay very long with everyone. We were in a rush out the door soon after the science experiment, and made our way down to Indy.

I didn’t get any photos for the remainder of the night. I’ve been under the weather, and pretty sure I was running a fever as of earlier in the morning. So we attended midnight mass, and arrived back at my sister’s house around 1:00 AM. A short while (and a shot of NyQuil later), I hit the sack.

Ice Cream, Dry Ice, and Customer/Product Interaction
Custom Ice Cubes and Bottom-Up Beer
Christmas Eve at Katie and Dan’s House, 2008

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Oh, that’s so cool! You get the Uncle of the Year Award, Felix! I’m glad it worked out.

    juliet Reply

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