Last week, we tested our storm glass to see whether the crystals were forming (or dissolving) in response to changes in temperature. Short answer: Yes.
But as you’ll remember, at the end of the experiment we were left with a pretty thick collection of grainy crystals at the bottom of the glass. This collection persisted for at least a week after the storm glass was back in its regular spot in our office.
Frankly, it made me worry a bit that we’d broken it. The ever-practical Nine-Year-Old suggested that we try to reset it.
What does it mean to reset a storm glass?
In this case, we mean turning the liquid in the glass completely clear, and then returning it to its home environment to see what happens.
How do you reset a storm glass?
Since the crystals formed at cooler temperatures and dissolved at higher ones, we decided a steady application of high heat was called for. Mommyo ruled out using fire, so we decided to try using a hair dryer instead.
If we apply a steady source of heat to the storm glass for long enough, all of the crystals will dissolve, effectively resetting the storm glass for use in future experiments.
The equipment requirements for this experience were pretty straight-forward. To conduct it, we needed:
- The storm glass itself
- Digital camera to record crystal formations
- Mommyo’s hair dryer
Step 1: Photograph the storm glass at the beginning of the experiment.
Step 2: Apply a steady source of heat to the storm glass.
Plan A: Use a hair dryer to apply a steady source of heat to the storm glass.
This didn’t work at all. The crystal formation barely budged, Mommyo quickly tired of holding the hair dryer, and The Nine-Year-Old got bored.
We needed a better plan.
Plan B: Set the storm glass up in front of the space heater in the kitchen. Have The Nine-Year-Old sit in the kitchen monitoring the storm glass while eating a snack and reading a book. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
Although the space heater was only set to 73F, our thermometer told us that the space heater warmed the air around the storm glass to 85F.
Step 3: After 15 minutes, the crystals were almost gone, but not quite, so The Nine-Year-Old reset the timer for 2 minutes.
After 17 minutes in front of the space heater, all of the crystals had dissolved. So we returned the storm glass to its home in the office.
All seemed lovely, until Mommyo walked into the office two hours later to write up this experiment and found this.
The Nine-Year-Old and I had expected crystals to form when the storm glass cooled, but neither of us had expected anything this dramatic. We thought it would take a couple of days for crystals to show up, and that when they did, they’d be in the lovely fern shapes we’d had this morning.
In hindsight, though, perhaps we should have expected this. After all, we knew from our earlier experiment that the crystals form in response to drops in temperature. By turning off the space heater and moving the still-warm storm glass to the office shelf to cool, we were effectively lowering its ambient temperature nearly as rapidly as that day we set the storm glass outside the window in 29F weather.
So have we broken it now?
Broken being a relative term, of course, given the faulty predictive capabilities of our storm glass in its best days.
I guess what I really mean is, will our storm glass ever have enough room it in again for the lovely ferns to form? I certainly hope so. I miss those ferns.
- “How do storm glasses work?” Part One: The Pondering (Caterpickles)
- “How do storm glasses work?” Part Two: The Testing (Caterpickles)