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Old 9th-June-2011, 05:20 AM   Tangent's time 9th-June-2011, 03:20 PM    #1
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Question Insulating properties of snow

So I know i could spend hours researching this and put off doing an assignment for a few more days and piss off a bunch of people in doing so but I figure I could be a good girl and get a nice detailed answer here.

Anyway so my boyfriend is obsessed with mentioning the insulating properties of snow but the other day he went as far as to tell someone that by burying their beer in the snow to keep it cool they were being counter productive... I don't know if this is correct and just wanted some clarification.

So, bury your beverages in the snow to keep them cool or nay?
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Old 9th-June-2011, 06:31 AM   sammael's time 9th-June-2011, 06:31 PM    #2
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

Yeahp, if they are already cold. Snow is an insulator because of trapped air pockets; it's good at keeping heat in. But there has to be a heat source for an insulator to act as an insulator.

I don't really understand that little paragraph about burying drinks in snow to keep them cool being counterproductive, that makes no sense. Am I missing something..?
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Old 9th-June-2011, 07:16 AM   Tangent's time 9th-June-2011, 05:16 PM    #3
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

Thanks. No you're not missing anything. I think my boyfriend, assumed that insulating meant "keeping warm" in all contexts... Along the lines of hey, it keeps the Eskimos in their igloos warm so it must warm up buried drinks.

Just to clarify, pretend your beverage is room-temperature-ish when you buy it but you want it to be really cold. Would burying it in snow keep it at room-temperature because the current room-temperature-ish warmth of the bottle acts as a "heat source"? Obviously it's not a self-replenishing source of heat so it would eventually cool but would insulating the bottle with snow keep it warmer for longer than, say, just leaving it on a table outside in those same weather conditions?
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Old 9th-June-2011, 07:32 AM   simichem's time 9th-June-2011, 08:32 AM    #4
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

I doubt that burying the beer in snow would 'keep it warm'...
Besides Eskimos don't bury themselves in snow cause they would probably die of hypothermia
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Old 9th-June-2011, 09:18 AM   Cogwulf's time 9th-June-2011, 09:18 AM    #5
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

If you put room-temperature beer in snow, it will get cold. It will take longer to cool down than if you put it in cold water, but it will cool down eventually.

Snow isn't a very good insulator for the purpose of building houses because it melts. It works for eskimos because it is cold inside igloos, and very very very cold outside them.
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Old 9th-June-2011, 10:28 AM   sammael's time 9th-June-2011, 10:29 PM    #6
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tangent View Post
I think my boyfriend, assumed that insulating meant "keeping warm" in all contexts... Along the lines of hey, it keeps the Eskimos in their igloos warm so it must warm up buried drinks.
Lol, that made me laugh. I did think of that, but I didn't think anyone.. No never mind Sorry.

That's a better question. It would really depend on a number of different factors, such as the temperature of the bottle and the environment (snow can be colder or warmer than the air temperature, as it changes temperature more slowly), and the size of the bottle, even what the bottle is made of if one wanted to get technical. But in the situation you outlined, the snow would cool it pretty quickly. At room temperature the bottle/liquid would have very little thermal energy, and can't generate more, its mass is very small/area through which heat can flow large, and it is in direct contact with the snow. The situation kind of voids the insulation capability/capacity of snow.
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Old 9th-June-2011, 05:57 PM   Melllvar's time 9th-June-2011, 11:57 AM    #7
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

Well, I had written a long post looking at Fourier's law and summed thermal resistances, explaining how solids and fluids conduct better than gases because of a better ability to transmit molecular motion, and comparing convective effects for the air trapped in snow versus open air, depending on whether that included forced or non-forced convection.

As much fun as that was, the simple answer is that the beer is unlikely to be colder than the snow, or else it would be frozen itself (edit: barring the freezing point depression due to the alcohol), while if you're even worried about your beer getting warm the surrounding air is considerably warmer than both the snow and the beer. You're better off putting your beer in the snow to keep it cold.
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Old 10th-June-2011, 06:58 AM   Tangent's time 10th-June-2011, 04:58 PM    #8
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

Hey, thanks everyone. Excellent. I can now casually slip into conversation a quick explanation based on all of that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sammael View Post
Lol, that made me laugh. I did think of that, but I didn't think anyone.. No never mind Sorry.
Haha dont worry about it, he's an INTJ so while he's super smart (especially IQwise) he doesn't think about things to the umpth degree and is sometimes so impatient to get a practical concept out there that he makes erroneous connections and comes to conclusions of the same nature. It makes me a bit embarrassed for him sometimes but gosh he has to be embarrassed by my tangents and inappropriateness so often that I don't mind an occasional leap in logic on his part.

But there was no way I was going to point out his error without being sure of what I was presenting. Especially since I'm sure this point is if more importance to me than to him... Neither of us like beer nor (or?)
frequent snowy regions.
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Old 18th-June-2011, 01:23 AM   Tangent's time 18th-June-2011, 11:23 AM    #9
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Default Re: Insulating properties of snow

I presented my argument to him and it was obviously convincing enough that he was compelled to deny that he had ever claimed anything to the contrary. Yay!
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