Earth Science - Other

Why does your Tongue Stick to Metal

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"Why does your Tongue Stick to Metal"
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I double dog dare you!

I wouldn’t do it if I were you. Your tongue really will stick to the frozen flag pole. The Myth Busters proved it in episode 82. They showed that a pig’s tongue stuck so strongly that some tissue was pulled off the tongue. Any body part with moisture can be frozen to metal so a sweaty hand fresh out of your glove can stick as well.

In fact, there are several news reports each year documenting the event. In fact on January 14, 2011, a headline from the Daily Mail reads “Boy gets his tongue stuck to a frozen metal pole after his brother double dares him”. When he managed to get his tongue off, he was bleeding. The best way to remove your tongue from frozen metal is by pouring cool water over the surface. This will slowly warm the metal and your tongue. The best plan is to not get stuck in the first place.

Amazing how this happens every year.

Why does it happen?

The cause of your tongue sticking to metal in winter is due to the temperature being below freezing and the moisture on your tongue. The metal has a higher thermal conductivity than your body. Thermal conductivity is a scientific term for the ability to transfer heat. That is why this freezing happens with metal, but not with plastic. The metal transfers heat from higher temperatures to lower temperatures. That is why the water on your tongue looses heat fast enough to freeze. The metal is pulling the heat from you.

First, the temperature has to be below the freezing point of water. The metal also has to freezing. The cold metal pulls heat from the saliva on your tongue. The water freezes. This happens because the metal can move heat from your body faster than you can keep up. The metal conducts heat 400 times faster than your tongue! Even though your body is continually making heat to maintain your body temperature, it can’t compete with the conductivity of the metal. The colder the external air; the faster the water between your tongue and the pole will freeze.

How to get unstuck

Your first instinct may be to pull yourself away. This is not a good idea because you will leave skin behind and bleed. Don’t panic. Wait for help. Someone needs to pour cool water over the stuck parts to free you.

Ice can also cause your tongue to stick for the same reasons as metal so don’t let anyone double dog dare you to lick the frozen bird bath.

More about this author: Mary Paliescheskey

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