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Professor's liquid nitrogen 'cannon' launches 1,650 ping pong balls

By Ben Hooper
Professor's liquid nitrogen 'cannon' launches 1,650 ping pong balls
Roy Lowry's experiment launches hundreds of ping pong balls into the air. Plymouth University/YouTube video screenshot

PLYMOUTH, England, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- A professor at a British university dropped a bottle of liquid nitrogen into warm water to create a "cannon" launching 1,650 ping pong balls into the air.

Roy Lowry, associate professor in physical chemistry at Plymouth University, appeared in a video on the school's YouTube channel explaining how nitrogen in its gas form occupies more space than it does as a liquid.

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Lowry illustrates his point in the video by dropping a bottle of liquid nitrogen into a bin of warm water and quickly dumping 1,650 ping pong balls into the bin.

The nitrogen turns to gas as the water heats it to its boiling point -- 320 degrees below zero -- and the resulting "cannon" effect launches the ping pong balls into the air with a resounding boom.

Lowry said he hopes the experiment will inspire people to learn more about science.

"For me, experiments like this are the shop window for science. They create the wow factor that is usually followed by the question, 'why?'. My hope is that such experiments will excite young (and not so young) minds to ask how and why such things happen and hence to delve deeper into science," Lowry said.

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