w_daniel_hillis's picture
Physicist, Computer Scientist, Co-Founder, Applied Invention.; Author, The Pattern on the Stone
Try the Experiment Yourself

As a child, I was told that hot water freezes faster than cold water. This was easy to refute in principle, so I did not believe it.

Many years later I learned that Aristotle had described the effect in his Meteorologica,

"The fact that the water has previously been warmed contributes to its freezing quickly: for so it cools sooner. Hence many people, when they want to cool hot water quickly, begin by putting it in the sun. So the inhabitants of Pontus when they encamp on the ice to fish (they cut a hole in the ice and then fish) pour warm water round their reeds that it may freeze the quicker, for they use the ice like lead to fix the reeds. " (E. W. Webster translation)

I was impressed as always by Aristotle's clarity, confidence and specificity. Of course, I do not expect you to be convinced that it is true simply because Aristotle said so, especially since his explanation is that "warm and cold react upon one another by recoil." (Aristotle, like us, was very good making up explanations to justify his beliefs). Instead, I hope that you will have the pleasure of being convinced, as I was, by trying the experiment yourself.