since the Christmas season is here, I would like to ask a question about the movie, "A Christmas Story." In one of the subplots of the movie, Ralphie's friends were betting each other that their tongue would stick to to a frozen pole. Finally, the kid did it and it stuck to the pole.

Why does this happen? I believe that there is a physics explanation for this.


1 Answer 1


The reason is the same as why a metal pipe feels colder than wooden plank at the same temperature: thermal conduction.

The heat from your tongue (including the moisture) is absorbed faster than your body can replenish it. This has the effect of freezing your saliva in the tongue's pores to the metal surface (which itself isn't too smooth at small scales). Doing that will net you this:
enter image description here

The remedy is actually quite simple: get some warm water and pour it where your tongue is stuck and you'll be free.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Pressing the tongue onto the metal pipe should help too. I haven't tried it though. $\endgroup$
    – pfnuesel
    Dec 16, 2014 at 19:23
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @pfnuesel: Hmm, I'm not sure why that would work. Seems to me that it'd just increase the frozen surface area, leading to being stuck even closer. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Dec 16, 2014 at 19:24
  • 13
    $\begingroup$ Maybe go in for the full-on smooch - the pole may... 'warm up to you' ;D $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Dec 16, 2014 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ @pfnuesel that's just an misconception. The ice-liquid saturation line (p-T diagram) is practically vertical. Also, even if it's doable, the pressure would have to be HUGE. Also, higher pressure will definitely not ALWAYS liquify water. There's a very clear limit: 251 K (-22 °C). See goo.gl/Vuq6hT. $\endgroup$ Dec 16, 2014 at 20:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @pfnuesel I triple dog dare you. $\endgroup$
    – LarsTech
    Dec 16, 2014 at 23:56

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