The Life Chocolatic

After The Life Aquatic experiment, I took it a bit further today. And I still don’t quite understand how it happened.

I filled a cup (a thick glass Bodum one) with cold chocolate milk (there is a snowstorm coming, so better be prepared).
I put it in the microwave to warm it up, for about 2 minutes.
I took it out, and gave it 30 seconds more on full microwave speed.
I took it out again, the cup was quite warm, also on the outside.
I placed the cup on my kitchen table.
I put in a teaspoon.

Now as soon as the teaspoon landed in the hot chocolate, it began to boil over ! Resulting in the cup nearly being emptied on kitchen table (the cup still standing!), hot chocolate milk flooding down my kitchen drawers, ending in a chocolate pool on the floor, of which Willy Wonka would have been proud. And of course there was chocolate milk in all my drawers too, on plates, in bowls, in my toaster, you name it. If I do something, I do it a 100%.

The thing is that I don’t quite understand how this could happen, from a physics* point of view.

(* Physics : The science of matter and energy and of interactions between the two, grouped in traditional fields such as acoustics, optics, mechanics, thermodynamics, and electromagnetism, as well as in modern extensions including atomic and nuclear physics, cryogenics, solid-state physics, particle physics, and plasma physics.)

But maybe some of you do ?

Whatever caused it – don’t try this at home kids.

10 thoughts to “The Life Chocolatic”

  1. Weren’t you supposed to put the spoon in the cup before you pressed START on the microwave? Dont’t have one here at work, but I think there are such icons on the one I have at home… or am I wrong?

  2. Well normally metal things like spoons may not be used in microwaves at all. So I didn’t do that. But somehow putting the spoon in the hot chocolate suddenly made it cook over. Very weird !

  3. Whoa! Experiments that make you end up with hot chocolate in your drawers ;-)

    But the answer my friend, is blowing on the net, or like Pablo Coronel would say:

    The exploding-coffee cup or superheated water is not a new thing. You need water (not necessarilly distilled), in a very smooth container (glass would do). Heat the water once to almost boiling to get rid of any air dissolved into it. Let it cool a few seconds and then heat again. Then CAREFULLY put a wooden stick/spoon/etc in the water and it will be really nice froth/explosion.

    The thermodynamic explanation is that water needs “nucleae” to boil, if you take the air away water can be heated into what is called the “Spinodal” region, in which water is superheated and highly unstable, any small perturbation will make it boil VERY energically. The spinodal reagion has boundaries though, if you overheat the water after a cetain temperature it’ll boil no matter what. Microwave is a perfect way to get nucleae free heating, since you don;t have any hot surfaces that can act as nucleae. Have you noticed that when boiling water in a pot, the bubbles start forming at the bottom (hot surface)? There are no hot surfaces in microwave, and I believe that even convective currents are barely present if at all in MW heating in a box-shape oven.

  4. Wow Yak ! I’m impressed ! I didn’t use a wooden spoon though, metal works just as well. But this must be the explanation.

    And, dare I say it, it happened again – today at work ! This time I boiled water in a kettle, poured it into a (thick) glass, and the glass exploded right away. Water in drawers, and all over the floor. From now on I only will drink orange juice.

  5. Oh, what a shame they explain why to take diet-coke. Otherwise I would have tried to persuade you to try otherwise ;-)

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