The slippery slope controversy


A little known secret is quickly growing into a worldwide scandal of unimaginable size and intensity: scientists do not know why ice is slippery. I am sure that many among you remember the textbook explanation that the pressure of the ice skate melts the ice and the skate slides on the water which then freezes. But now, the dedicated reporters of the New York Times have uncovered the scandal which is growing into what some claim to be the Waterloo for the Melting Ice Theory (MIT).

A public outrage is spreading across continents over how science books have misrepresented why ice is slippery while scientists knew that the explanation was erroneous. What motives are guiding the ‘MIT’ lobby to surpress the truth about why ice is slippery?

In a hard hitting article in the New York Times Kenneth Chang is showing how the scandal is slowly unraveling and how the ivory tower of science has been dealing with it.

Some scientists, despite facing the inevitable backlash from their colleagues are no longer staying quiet. Although persistent rumors of scientists having lost their funding for spring break ski trips are spreading, the veracity of these rumors has yet to be determined.

Ice, said Robert M. Rosenberg, an emeritus professor of chemistry at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., and a visiting scholar at Northwestern University, “is a very mysterious solid.”

Dr. Rosenberg wrote an article looking at the slipperiness of ice in the December issue of Physics Today, because he kept coming across the wrong explanation for it, one that dates back more than a century.

For more than a century, scientist and science textbooks have been promoting the slippery slope explanation while dogmatically surpressing those who tried to assail the leading theory of ‘slippery ice’. Who is trying to hide this mystery from science and worse from public scrutiny?

According to the frequently cited — if incorrect — explanation of why ice is slippery under an ice skate, the pressure exerted along the blade lowers the melting temperature of the top layer of ice, the ice melts and the blade glides on a thin layer of water that refreezes to ice as soon as the blade passes.

“People will still say that when you ask them,” Dr. Rosenberg said. “Textbooks are full of it.”

But the explanation fails, he said, because the pressure-melting effect is small. A 150-pound person standing on ice wearing a pair of ice skates exerts a pressure of only 50 pounds per square inch on the ice. (A typical blade edge, which is not razor sharp, is about one-eighth of an inch wide and about 12 inches long, yielding a surface area of 1.5 square inches each or 3 square inches for two blades.) That amount of pressure lowers the melting temperature only a small amount, from 32 degrees to 31.97 degrees. Yet ice skaters can easily slip and fall at temperatures much colder.

While alternative explanation have been proposed, they have so far failed to present the details necessary for such theories to be accepted. Some critics of the MIT theory have assailed these explanations as ‘just so stories’ and ‘pathetically lacking in detail. They argue the existence of a specified and complex process shows that it is time for science to accept that the slippery of ice may be best explained by Intelligent Design.


I don’t get it…what does this have to do with biology?

No, wait; my bad. I meant, “What does ID have to do with biology?”

Really nice article, but I don’t think the ID crowd will get it.

Could I have some of the ice in my brandy please…

Now, please help me out here. I slipped and fell on the steps the other day? Is there a “Melting Steps Theory (MST)” somewhere, or did the Intelligent Designer trip me? Or just the less friction, the more slippery?

and what about ice brushing in curling?

it must be magic, cause the idea that the brushes create friction that melts the ice and changes the trajectory of the stone can’t be right!

I propose a new theory, the theory of “Intelligent Slipping” or slippery intelligences…

I’m sure the reason tongues stick to ice is the Intelligent Tripper’s way of punishing those filthy methodologicalnaturalists who don’t find the Slippery Word enough and just want to try everything…


PvM Wrote:

While alternative explanation have been proposed, they have so far failed to present the details necessary for such theories to be accepted.

Maybe not in the scientific community, but I’ll bet if we organize enough Abramson money and slippery characters in one place, we can write a few cdesign proponentsists scientists to be “Dissenters from Skate-Pressure-Melts-Ice-ism” like so:

Dissenting Wrote:

We are skeptical of claims for the ability of pressure from an ice skate to account for the slipperiness of ice. Careful examination of the evidence for skate-pressure-melts-ice-and-that-is-why-it’s-slippery theory should be encouraged.

And if we can only get some Steves on our list, unlike the paltry four that appear on the Disco Institute’s: Stephen Cheeseman (Geophysics) Stephen Crouse (Kinesiology) Steven Gollmer (Atmospheric Science) Stephen Sewell (Medicine)

…of course, inviting anyone with a doctoral degree to “dissent”, and not just physicists and chemists, sure would help us, too.

The idea of slipping is Irreducibly Complex(IC). If you take away the ice, or you take away the ice skater (slipping person), then there could be no slipping, thus, the whole thing is IC. Anyway, we all know the ice skater was front-loaded (pushed backwards), therefore he slipped, and could never have slipped without being front-loaded.

The Slipping Institute demands that we teach kids that the Melting Ice Theory (MIT) is a theory in crisis, and that the Intelligent Slipping Theory (IST - thanks norm) should be taught instead, since the MIT leads to immoral worldviews and are a cold atheistic conspiracy. This is the reason kids are always trying to be “cool” and wear strange clothes.

Dr. Slipsky did some maths and proved that a person can only slip when pushed, thus random or unguided slipping is a devil doctrine. Furthermore, Dr Slipsky proved with his maths that if we analyze the patterns made by the slipper’s bum prints on the ice, we can conclude that an Intelligent Slipping Agent is behind everything, including global warming, frostbite and bad maths.

DaveCrotch, from Uncommon Slipping blog is banning people who dares ask what exactly the Intelligent Slipping Theory (IST) is, whilst grooming John. A Slippedandfellonmyheadson…

More ice for my brandy please…

God favors iceskaters!!!

I don’t think we should be teaching these things to impressionable children. Ice kills. Remember Dr. Atkins.

It has been known for a very long time that the textbook explanation for why people can iceskate is incorrect–my undergrad thermo teacher made us read a russian paper from the 70’s that had an alternate explanation–although I cannot recall the details.

It’s not that ice is slippery that we IDers admire–it’s that fact that it floats, and that water in general has high latent heat, high specific heat, low thermal conductivity, low viscosity, high melting and boiling points, and high surface tension. Those properties are all very “fortunate” as far as life is concerned.

Those properties are all very “fortunate” as far as life is concerned.

The space aliens who made us thought so, too, Davey.

Just ask Behe.

So the battlelines are being drawn. How soon before we go to court to keep the scourge of ISTism out of the classroom? Clearly this is another dogma put forth by the ISTists, and I for one will be first to the school board, before my kid is exposed to the dogma of Freud’s first slip…


Humor is lost on some people… like fundies… and IDiots…

Floater Heddle once again reminds us that water is different, because the Intelligent Slipper designed it to support ice skaters. Floater Heddle would like to remind is about his version of the Intelligent Slipping Theory (IST). A better theory thus is the Intelligent Floating Theory (IFT), stating there is an Intelligent Floater, and he lets ice skaters “float” on the ice, thus there is no such thing as slipping. This same entity, the Intelligent Floater is also responsible for the physics of the floaters you find in the toilet(Loo,John,Sh*thouse).

Intelligent Floating??!?

I might as well flush all that stuff I covered on Density at the beginning of the year. Bummer.

It’s not that ice is slippery that we IDers admire—it’s that fact that it floats, and that water in general has high latent heat, high specific heat, low thermal conductivity, low viscosity, high melting and boiling points, and high surface tension. Those properties are all very “fortunate” as far as life is concerned.

I am reminded of a textbook I have in my office called Elements of Chemistry, which says:

The effects of temperature upon liquid water is distinguished by a peculiarity of a very striking kind, and exhibits a departure from the general laws of nature, for a purpose so wise and beneficient, as to afford one of the strongest and most impressive of those endless proofs of design and onniscience in the frame of creation, which it is the most exalted pleasure of the chemist, no less than of the naturalist, to trace and admire.

The book was published in 1845. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

The crying shame is that all this time, the melting-icists have dogmatically shut out all legitimate criticism from mainstream science. Obviously, our only choice, as proponents of Intelligent Slipping, is to take this right to the local school boards and Rick Santorum, where it can be resolved with the highest degree of objecivity in the full light of high school students and Republican Senators.

Skaters-melting-icism is a theory in crisis. There are a lot of gaps in this theory and it should finally subject to critical analysis. Its time for all of us to demand the free exchange of ideas!

Teach the Controversy!

By the way, I invite you all to purchase my books, Icons of Melting, and Pandas and Ice Skaters, coming to a bookstore near you.

Ah, nothing like a good parody.

I wonder how the FSM would address the MIT controversy. Perhaps we should start pushing to “teach the controversy” at youth hockey camps and figure skating lessons?

Anyway, ID Melting is obviously correct, because of how sensitive to temperature ice is. Temperatures in the universe range from nearly 0K to 100 million K. On this scale, if you change the temperature of 32º ice even just a *hair*, less than a millionth of a percent, to say 40º, ice skating would be impossible.

What more proof do you need?

In related news, toilet water is cleaner than fast-food ice – according to an article on the ABC news web site.

Did you know that the bond angle in ice crystals had to be fine-tuned to within twenty orders of magnitude, or the ice wouldn’t be slippery at all? This proves that the universe was intelligently designed for ice skating.

I notice you are all conveniently ignoring *snow* in this discussion. I am sick of these ice theories (and it is a theory) being shoved down our children’s throats as if it were a fact.

I’m not saying the ice theory is the cause for teen pregnancy and teen drug use, but the number of teens in trouble today is staggering. Our youths could use a frozen water theory that is uplifting and empowering.

I for one plan to write my local school board and demand our children be taught an alternative to the ice theory, mainly the snow theory.

I am sick of the dogmatism surrounding ice theories. I say teach the controversy and let kids decide. Let’s give our children some credit and teach them both theories.

Mark my words, the ice theory is a theory in crisis.

Well, now it’s time to teach the controversy in physics![…]60220-7.html. “Physicists are searching for violations to the theory of relativity.” Obviously, the science community has other dogmas it is attempting to promulgate on an unsuspecting public.

It’s slippery becuase it was “designed” that way. I can see the hand of G.……mmmm.…The Designer in the design of ice. Thus, proving once and for all.…(drum roll)…God did it…and, it goes really good with Capt’n and Coke!

“In related news, toilet water is cleaner than fast-food ice — according to an article on the ABC news web site.”

My theory is that bacteria in the ice are pushing people along, using their intelligently designed butt-propellors.

Maybe we can return the favor at a music concert, pushing ice (Vanilla Ice) along when he stage dives.

Sorry, I misspoke when I said the word “music”.

thanks to the admin for fixing the botched comment I complained about. Here’s to hoping someone shows the KwikXML team the meaning of the term “fail gently”.

Obviously, the melting by pressure concept is refuted by a simple thought experiment. I know that I am very good at slipping and falling with my skates. I keep hoping that if I stand still, the water supposedly melted by my blades will freeze me to the ice and I will finally be able to stand up. Guess what? Never happens! Maybe as I am standing, the ice continually melts under the pressure? However, water is a fluid, and if the melting by pressure concept were true, then all I would need to do is stand still long enough and I would eventually melt through to a sufficient depth for the water on the sides of my blades to freeze to support me. Again, this never happens.

James Slade Red River College

Posted by FastEddie on February 22, 2006 10:43 AM (e)

“In related news, toilet water is cleaner than fast-food ice — according to an article on the ABC news web site.”

Hey! That’s true! I sent my botany students out with sterile cotton swabs and nutrient agar plates to collect samples, and the sample from inside the ice dispenser in the cafeteria was amazing! Much more entertaining than anything we collected from the rest rooms ;^)

I’m amazed that no-one has commented on the obvious fallacy in MIT theory.

It violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics!

Once the ice melts (becomes less associated), there is no way that it can regain information return to it’s solid form.

An outside agency is obviously needed to explain things.

Ice was not slippery before the Fall (obviously). The current slipperiness of ice is best explained by remnants of the Vapor Canopy that once encircled the earth clinging to the blades of skates and the surface of ice thereby facilitating skating.

Interested readers are referred to Henry Morris and John Witcomb’s seminal book The Genesis Zamboni.

I can’t believe it, my co-worker just bought a car for $37732. Isn’t that crazy!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on February 22, 2006 12:30 AM.

Few Biologists but Many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition was the previous entry in this blog.

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