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What Happens If You Put Your Hand In Liquid Nitrogen—320ºF

Everyone has seen the experiments with liquid nitrogen. The most notable examples are freezing the rose and crumbling it, and making a magician-like getaway with a cloud of smoke or destroying a T-1000 after it has been sent back in time to kill you. They’re interesting and amazing, causing things to react in ways that just aren’t expected.

But most (if not all) of us see the experiment and think three things: 1. Why do I want to drink it? 2. Could I use it to make ice cubes faster? 3. I want to put my hand in it. For some reason, one of the first thoughts everyone has is what it would feel like to touch the liquid, which of course is not a great idea.

At -320℉, the substance can do some real damage if handled improperly. As explained in the video from #Mind Warehouse, continued contact would freeze your skin and all the liquids in veins and blood vessels. Eventually, your entire limb would freeze and crumble just like that rose.

Luckily, that doesn’t happen instantly, and humans can actually pour the liquid over themselves. This happens because, as the nitrogen touches your warm body, it instantaneously evaporates into a gas that isn’t dangerous to the touch—after all, almost 80% of the air we breathe is nitrogen already. The gas forms a protective barrier in what is termed the Leidenfrost effect, separating your skin from the liquid.

Liquid nitrogen is commonly used for hundreds of different reasons in the manufacturing and medical fields, not just backyard experiments or high school science classes.

In the video, you can see many examples of people pouring it on themselves. In one case, someone submerged their entire hand in a container full of the substance. Careful though, as the negative side-effects will start very quickly. That’s why the scientists are shown just pouring a small amount on at a time, or over a very large surface.

Even though James Cameron was stretching the truth a little bit in Terminator 2 (though who can really be sure how a robot from the future would react), don’t think you can survive sustained exposure to nitrogen in its liquid form. If you’re ever lucky enough to use it, be very very careful.


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