Salt Melts Ice?

Did I mention we’re hanging out in some pretty cold weather these days? Brrrr! Well, the rocket scientist and I were supposed to be making our escape, headed to Florida for a work conference of his (SciTech, you know, a bunch of scientists, engineers and technologists talking about their projects). A little ice disrupted our plans.

We returned to my parents house several hours after having gotten our hugs and kisses goodbye from the boys, who were staying the week with their grandparents. Eddie heartily declared he’d missed me. Hah! But, oh, so cute! I explained we couldn’t leave on our airplane because there was too much ice on the runway making it slippery. This prompted a conversation about the possibility of an airplane crashing into the airport, people sliding around on ice skates and his adamant aversion to the idea, and what could be done about the ice on the runway.

Well, we don’t pass up an opportunity like that! Especially when there’s a bucket of salt sitting right there in the kitchen which my Dad was about to use on the front steps. I headed out onto the patio with a plate to scoop up some of the ice-encrusted snow.


As I set the plate on the table in front of Eddie, Dad-the-rocket-scientist explained about the importance of a control when performing an experiment. Whoosh! Over his sweet little head. But he was all into sprinkling the salt, I mean, sodium chloride, onto the ice. We made sure he only  got the left side of the plate, and leaving half of the ice alone.


He continued to chomp on his snack. We continued to chat about our rescheduled flight and whether or not it too would be delayed or cancelled (it was, over the next day we’d book a series of flights only to have them continually delayed, connections missed, some completely cancelled).

After a few minutes, we asked Eddie what was happening to the ice. He shouted in excitement, “It’s melting!” Of course, like a good scientist, he wanted to know why. Jonathan explained. I didn’t even know where to begin. (If you’d like to know where to begin when explaining why salt melts ice, here you go. You’re welcome.)


At this point, with half the plate significantly more melted than the other, Eddie also began to see Dad’s point about the control. If he would have salted the whole plate, there would be nothing to compare it to! That’s why the guy’s a rocket scientist, tell ya what.

Moral of the story: cancelled flights can be a good thing! You just might teach your kid a thing or two about chemistry and the scientific method. Don’t worry, we made it to Florida the next day.

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