The Physics
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Density of Ice

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Cutnell, John D., & Kenneth W. Johnson. Physics, 3rd Edition. New York: Wiley, 1995: 315 "Mass Densities of Common Substances, Ice, 917 kg/m3 917 kg/m3
Ice. Encarta. Redmond, WA: Microsoft, 1997-2000. "One important property of ice is that it expands upon freezing. At 0° C it has specific gravity 0.9168 as compared to specific gravity 0.9998 of water at the same temperature. As a result, ice floats in water." 916.8 kg/m3
About Water and Ice. Mathmol. New York University, 1996. "The density of ice Ih is 0.931 gm/cubic cm. This compares with a density of 1.00 gm/cubic cm. for water. There are eleven different forms of crystalline ice that are know. The hexaganol [sic] form known as ice Ih is the only one that is found naturally." 931 kg/m3
Weast, Robert C., Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. 61st Edition. Florida: CRC, 1981: F-1. "Density of Various Solids, Ice, 0.917 g/cm3" 917 kg/m3
Density. Air Travelers. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), 1996. "Substance, Ice; Density kg/m3, 917" 917 kg/m3

A long time ago in a place far, far away a man stood up and said, "LET THIS TEA BE COLD!!", and it was. This amazing phenomenon occurred not because this man had God-like powers, but because he added a couple of ice cubes to his drink.

Ice is the solid phase of water and is usually sustained within temperatures at or below 0 °C. An interesting property of water is that it is less dense in the solid phase (ice) than it is in the liquid phase. For all you non-believers, we can verify this fact by performing this simple experiment.

  1. Obtain glass and household refreshment.
  2. Hold glass upright and pour in drink.
  3. Remove ice tray from freezer and place 1-4 ice cubes in drink.
  4. Stare in awe as the ice cubes float.

Another interesting property of water explains how and why bodies of water freeze the way they do. As water approaches its freezing point, under STP conditions (0 °C and 1 atmosphere), it reaches it's maximum density at 4 °C. When the water on the surface cools to this point, it sinks and warmer water from below rises. This process continues until the entire body of water is at 4 °C. This explains why oceans freeze from top to bottom and not the other way around. Ice plays an important part in ground erosion, usually during the winter. As water seeps into crevices in the ground and freezes, it expands and creates massive force which cracks and erodes the earth.

In theory, ice has had a major effect on evolution and the development of the human species. For more information see The effect of the density of ice on evolution by Sharon Fenton of Sheffield Hallam University.

Alex Dallas -- 2000