Sunday, September 2, 2012

Student Gulps Into Medical Literature
Mazur tells the story: "As tradition dictates, we made our own ice cream, using liquid nitrogen as a refrigerant and aerator. We spilled a little of the nitrogen onto a table and watched tiny little drops of it dance around."

Someone asked, "Why does it do that?" Mazur explained that the nitrogen evaporated when it came in contact with the table, which provided a cushion of air for the drop to sit on, and thermally insulated it to minimize further evaporation-enabling it to do its little dance without scarring the table, boiling away or being "smeared" out. "It's this principle," he said, "that makes it possible for someone to dip his wet hand into molten lead or to put liquid nitrogen in his mouth without injury."

Mazur had worked with the chemical in a cryogenics lab several years before and believed in the principle. To prove it to the doubting ice cream socializers, he poured some into a glass and into his mouth-fully expecting to impress the crowd by blowing smoke rings. But then he swallowed the liquid nitrogen. "Within two seconds I had collapsed on the floor, unable to breathe or feel anything other than intense pain."

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