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No. 79: Jan-Feb 1992

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Spooky Spike

Solid 'spike' of ice, ending in an arrowhead
The readers of New Scientist continue to supply delightful observations of Nature's quirks. The following is from J. Turner, in Warwickshire:

I have in my garden a round red plastic container which holds water for the birds. In last winter's first hard frost, I found an odd ice formation in the bowl. Although the weather the previous day had been clement and the water was fluid, we had that night a sharp frost down to about -4C. The following morning I noticed what appeared to be something sticking up out of the frozen water in the dish. On closer examination, it proved to be a solid 'spike' of ice, ending in an arrowhead. The ice was solid and came out of the side of the frozen water at an angle of about 45. It was about 9 inches long and solid throughout." (Turner, Judy; "Spooky Spike," New Scientist, p. 54, November 2, 1991.)

Two weeks later, the same journal published two radically different explanations of the ice spike. G. Lewis called the spike an "ice fountain" and stated that it is due to the well-known expansion of water as it freezes. R. Blumen-feld, on the other hand, attributed the growth of the spike to the fact that water molecules on the surface and in surrounding air are electrical dipoles. In his view, a small defect in the ice's surface attracts polarized water molecules in the air, creating an outwardly growing structure. (Lewis, Geoff, and Blumenfeld, Raphael; "Sprouting Spikes," New Scientist, p. 58, November 16, 1991.)

Comment. Seldom does one find such engaging oddities discussed in American scientific publications. American scien tists are too stuffy it seems.

From Science Frontiers #79, JAN-FEB 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987