WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2014 — In what may be the warmest Winter Olympics on record, Sochi looks more like SoCal by the day. With few real snowflakes around to blanket Sochi's slopes, the latest episode of the American Chemical Society's Reactions YouTube series explains how science keeps the Winter Olympics alive with artificial snow. The video is available at http://youtu.be/ftMFMlk6FlA.
Producing artificial snow isn't as simple as grinding up big blocks of ice and spraying it on the slopes. Sochi's artificial snow guns — cannons that fire fake snow 20 to 30 feet in the air — mimic nature's snowmaking process by mixing super fine water droplets with so-called "nucleating agents," which act as seeds for snow crystal growth. While a speck of dust can act as a nucleating agent for real snowflakes, many snow guns use silver iodide or bacterial proteins to get the crystal growth process started.
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