That scene out of the popular holiday movie, A Christmas Story, is no fiction. If it is cold enough outside and you lick a metal pole, your tongue will stick to it. Often it will stick so hard and so fast that you will not be able to remove it without ripping out part of your tongue. Just last year, in Hammond, IN, the fire department and police department had to be called in to free a boy who foolishly decided to test the theory. The year before, a young girl had the same problem. Many more incidents go unreported. I have to admit, Iíve tested the theory myself but was able to pull myself free after a scary 10 seconds of being stuck. I think I took off a few taste buds but it was worth saving myself from the embarrassment of having to call adults to the scene.
Just as in A Christmas Story, the tongue that gets stuck to the pole is almost always that of a child and the top reason for initiating the act is a dare and peer pressure. For others, such as myself, it was an incident of curiosity and scientific sacrifice.
The science behind why your tongue sticks to metal in the cold relies on the principles of heat conduction. The first condition that must be met is the metal must be lower than the freezing point (0C, 32F). The lower the temperature, the faster and stronger your tongue will stick. Metal has, what is called, high thermal conductivity. This means it transfers temperatures very fast. The thermal conductivity of your tongue and the water in your saliva is much less than the metal. This means, when you touch the metal with your tongue, the temperature of the metal quickly transfers to the moisture on your tongue, freezing it faster than your body can warm it up again. Because your body cannot transfer heat faster than the metal, your tongue stays frozen unless the metal is warmed up through another source.
Now that you know the facts of this, I hope my answer will be enough to satisfy your curiosity.
Posted 3515 day ago