Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On the rocks

There is a difference between Europeans and Americans that I have noted from observations in restaurants on each side of the Atlantic. Nothing huge and it only applies in general. Europeans do not like lots of ice in their soft drinks and Americans do. If you buy a glass of coke on an extremely hot day in Europe you will get one or two ice cubes that will melt away before you can bring the glass to your scorched lips. In America you will get all the ice you want and your drink is guaranteed to be very cold. This is just a matter of taste – I am sure the drink does the same magic irrespective of its temperature – within a certain range of course.

Personally I like ice since I like cold drinks when thirsty. My husband would rather skip the ice in his. Since we are both European one might think it counter my theory about the difference in European and American tastes regarding ice cubes but it does not. It actually is the basis of another theory, one based on a two person sample. This theory is that it is in childhood when one develops the taste for cold American drinks or not so cold European ones. I spent part of my childhood in America and my husband all of his here in Iceland.     
It is interesting that of all matter in the world the only non-metallic substance that starts expanding when about to freeze is water. Other materials contract. The general rule is the hotter matter is the more energy it has to overcome the ties that bind – hence it expands. But water, once frozen takes up 9% more space than it did when in its liquid state. A bit like expenses, they usually expand to 9% over income.

This anomaly is extremely beneficial for us humans. Not because we like the occasional drink on the rocks and would prefer them floating on the top and not lying at the bottom of the glass. The benefit is much greater than that. And it also applies equally to elephants, birds, worms and fish. As well as all the other animals that I can’t remember. But especially the fish.

Great, great......great grandfather many times removed - a fish out of water
If water behaved like other liquids it would contract when frozen and become denser and heavier. It would therefore freeze from bottom up or what froze on the surface would sink to the bottom, killing all bottom vegetation. And this would mean all other life in this water could not survive which is serious stuff since all life not only originated in water but evolved there. So our relative the fish that grew lungs and legs would never have grazed on that prehistoric water bank, looked around and thought: not bad. No sharks, no currents. Warm. Not bad at all.

Life on earth as we know it is all because of water expanding when frozen.

So we can thank life to the behaviour of water, or more precisely the behaviour of ice. Meaning that Iceland is a very nice name for a country. No matter how you like your drinks.

Oddly enough this started off as a post about lava.
Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. I definitely like my drinks without ice. I can remember having an argument with a vendor at the airport in Dallas-Fort Worth. I asked for a cup of Coke - no ice. I received a cup half full. When I pointed this out - politely of course - I was told that was all they could put in otherwise two cups would show up with only one payment. They didn't buy my argument that they advertised a cup of Coke not a cup of Coke and ice. I didn't buy their half cup of Coke.

    Talking of ice - take a look at this Minnesota monster!

  2. Rocks to lava. I get the segue, Yrsa. Wow, wonder what that says about me? And no, Stan, the answer isn't too much Coke :)

  3. Though I grew up in the US, I too prefer my drinks without ice. But I was raised by Europeans, one of which--my grandmother--believed that putting ice cold liquids in one's body would be somehow be harmful to the delicate mechanisms within. Write about lava next, please Yrsa. I love science especially when I learn it from a writer talented enough to make it amusing.