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When water does not boil at the boiling point

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Around 1800, many reputable scientists reported significant variations in the temperature of pure water boiling under normal atmospheric pressure. The reported variations included a difference of over 1°C between boiling in metallic and glass vessels (Gay-Lussac), and superheating up to 112°C on extracting dissolved air out of water (De Luc). I have confirmed most of these observations in my own experiments, which will be described with video footage. Water boils at the “boiling point” only under very particular circumstances, and our common-sense intuition about the fixedness of the boiling point is only sustained by our limited experience. The widespread ignorance of such basic and easily-confirmed facts tells us something significant about the nature of scientific research and education.

This talk is part of the Stokes Society, Pembroke College series.

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