This column had several “starting Points” I guess the first was when I saw a video on Face Book showing a snowball turning black, but not melting, when held close to a flame. The story was the snow that had come through the atmosphere collecting chemicals that the government is pumping into the air, and that caused them to blacken, and to smell like burning plastic – and, what a revoltin’ development this is! This was during our frigid weather, when the snow on the ground was too dry to ball.
Recently I discovered that during the melting process, I was able to make some snowballs. Holding one with a pair of ice tongs (well, the only tongs I have) and using a gas fire lighter (not an easy task for me to manipulate the lighter with my left hand) I was able to get the flame under the snowball, which I held over the sink in case in started to melt. To my surprise, not only did the snowball not melt, but, it turned black – just like in the video It turned black only where the flame touched the snow.
I then put the snowball on a plate and put it into the microwave, just to see if it would melt. It did, all over the plate and the bottom of the microwave. Later all over the floor as I tried to carry the water filled plate to the sink, I did get some water into the sink.
I’m kind of curious and since I had empirical knowledge that a regular snowball would turn black I started to think about it. Remember, the entire snowball didn’t turn black, only the areas that came in contact with the flame. That was a clue.
I tried the experiment again, this time using a wooden kitchen match for the flame. The darkening color is likely not the snowball changing color but rather the flame source exhaust being deposited onto the snowball. The chemical smell being reported is also probably from the flame source.
Jerry Riley comments for the News Bulletin. He is a retired telecommunications supervisor.