This ice cube formed in the our freezer the last time I baked made ice. The KingofHearts suggested I post this here and see if anyone could explain the phenomenon responsible for this.

Rejected explanations:
  • ice stalagmite formed while our freezer was defrosting
  • another version of the stalagmite theory: steam formed on the roof of our freezer and then dripped down, when we put something hot in the freezer
  • I put a particularly sexy bag of edamame next to the ice cube tray and it got excited

But of course, with a couple of seconds of consultation with Professor Google, I have already figured that out. How did we ever settle bets without the Internet?

Ice spikes grow as the water in an ice cube tray turns to ice. The water first freezes on the top surface, around the edges of what will become the ice cube. The ice slowly freezes in from the edges, until just a small hole is left unfrozen in the surface. At the same time, while the surface is freezing, more ice starts to form around the sides of the cube.

Since ice expands as it freezes, the ice freezing below the surface starts to push water up through the hole in the surface ice. If the conditions are just right, then water will be forced out of the hole in the ice and it will freeze into an ice spike, a bit like lava pouring out of a hole in the ground to makes a volcano. But water does not flow down the sides of a thin spike, so in that way it is different from a volcano. Rather, the water freezes around the rim of the tube, and thus adds to its length. The spike can continue growing taller until all the water freezes, cutting off the supply, or until the tube freezes shut.

This has been your physics lesson for the day. Remember your homework is due Monday and there might be a pop quiz on this material before the final exam.