Foil as an insulator?

The announcement of foil as the material of choice came at the perfect time.  We were in the process of working ideas out for a week-long celebration called “Cool Science.”  Our marketing director passed along the great idea of a melting contest each afternoon of the celebration, which we coined “Afternoon Melt-down.”

So, I knew we could melt stuff outside, but what stuff? And how interesting would it be to literally watch ice cream melt on the sidewalk?  A whole flurry of ideas followed (melting candy, freezing marshmallow creme in nitrogen and watching it slowly melt; velveeta and butter soon followed-thanks to Terri Mouton and Sam Dean for the tasty and messy ideas).

I wanted to find a way that guests could participate in the experience and not stand outside of it.  Thanks to a flash of divine insight, the idea occurred to me to challenge guests to find ways to make popsicles melt more slowly.  This is where foil played an amazing role!  We gave guests choices of materials: bubble wrap, cotton balls,biodegradable packing peanuts, newsprint or foil.

They placed their “insulated” popsicles in the sun, next to my “naked” or uninsulated popsicle and we waited in the 110 degree heat until my popsicle melted-202 seconds!  Once my popsicle melted, then they would check their popsicle and were invited to eat their popsicle as a way to test the effectiveness of their insulating material.

Quite a few guests used foil to “protect” their popsicle, one stating that that foil could deflect the heat, another mentioning that light would bounce off the foil away from their popsicle.  Another guest did not use foil b/c he reasoned that it would make the popsicle melt faster, citing that foil is used to keep things hot in the oven.    While this activity has been very popular with guests who will brave the afternoon heat, the power I found in it was the ability to use the postings  here within our group to breathe life into my work and to find new ways to think about guest experiences with a simple material.

On a side note that has nothing to do with foil: another way we involved guests in Afternoon Melt-down was to create an online poll on, asking guests to text their prediction of the fastest melting objects to the site.  We project a graph of their answers in one of our studios, along with the directions on how to post. The graph changes each time a guest texts a response.


1 thought on “Foil as an insulator?

  1. I love it, Anne!

    Hmmmm, reminds me of bringing out one of the survival thermal blankets used in extreme conditions, with heavy reflectivity to keep body heat in, or heat out….

    And love the idea of graphing it out…. Tres cool (pun intended?)

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