The Paw Print
Last week Atlanta, Georgia was blanketed with a few inches of snow. Of course snow in the southern states is quite rare; but is it actually snow? Hundreds of viral videos have been posted on the web trying to test this. The experiment involves a snowball and a lighter. The lighter is lit and held underneath the snowball. Now instead of melting into a puddle like we would expect, it seems to cave in on itself like Styrofoam and develop scorch marks; some people even claim to smell chemicals during the process.
Many southerners point toward the government for the bizarre occurrence. Their theory is that the snow is not actually snow; it’s a pile of nano-bots that were dropped from government planes via chem-trails. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a chem-trail is here’s the scoop. A chem-trail is a chemical/biological agent that government planes supposedly spray into the atmosphere at high altitudes for undisclosed purposes. There has been no evidence of these chem-trails recorded so this is just a theory.
The snow that “can’t melt” is very easily disproved too. Phil Plait, an astronomer and science writer in Boulder, Colorado, discusses the reasons behind the snow’s peculiar reactions with a lighter using the scientific method. First of all snow is not just water, it’s also air. In fact snow can be composed of up to 95% air and only 5% water. This is why the snow doesn’t seem to melt and instead caves in.
When part of the snowball is heated, the water melts like it should but the rest of the snowball absorbs it. The water actually replaces the air inside the snowball (this is also how slush is made) and thus it neither makes a puddle nor drips.
As for the snowball turning black with scorch marks, it’s just the chemicals in the lighter. The butane in a lighter is a hydrocarbon which mixes with the air and creates soot like a fireplace. The soot is what is coating the snow and will coat any object that it is put under.
The chemical smell is also the result of the lighter. The butane combusts when it is mixed with oxygen. Holding a lighter too close to another object causes that oxygen to be slightly cut off. When there is not enough oxygen, the excess carbon from the butane turns into soot and also produces carbon monoxide. So the smell is actually the result of carbon and unburnt butane gasses.
If you would like to see it for yourself, Mr. Plait’s video is on Youtube. The video is called “Snow that doesn’t melt! Is it a government conspiracy?! (Hint: no.)” and is posted by TheBadAstronomer. Plus feel free to check out the conspiracy videos to cross reference results.