Freezing temps, Diet Coke lead to pop-‘cicles

Pamela Tabar

After teaching at Kent State for five years, I’ve finally contributed to the greater body of scientific knowledge. I’ve determined the freezing point of Diet Coke (um, it’s around -3 F).

The four cases of diet soda that I’ve always kept naturally cool in my garage duly exploded during the past week’s critically low temps, spewing Diet Coke icicles all over the garage walls and ceiling, and even glazing the sides of my truck, parked clear across the two-car garage.

The cans had apparently blown up individually during the night, like little bombs, bursting through the cardboard cases and spraying everything within their pressurized, 12-oz. reach.

My “Ph.D. Science-Guy” dad informs me that regular soda wouldn’t have been such an easy victim to our recent frigid temps. But diet pop, being sugar-free, has no natural “sugar-based protection” against the cold.

(Don’t panic: Alcohol-based beverages are still in the basic safe zone, since alcohol’s freezing point is lower than water.)

When I went out the next morning to assess the damage in daylight, I encountered something that the set designers planning the Winter Dance scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would have appreciated: Glittering Diet Coke icicles hanging from every surface (with some Diet Sprite and Diet Dr Pepper icicles thrown in for additional mood and lighting effects).

Normally, this would have been completely hilarious – if it had happened to someone else.

My cat busied himself sniffing every soda nugget now solidly glued to the garage floor, while I took a moment to strategize. Hosing the mess down was obviously not an option, since it was still only 15 degrees. Sweeping was impossible, since the former liquid was now bonded to the concrete (and drywall).

The only handy solution was the snow shovel to pry up the main spewed mess, at least as far as the floor was concerned.

As I chiseled away, I actually praised the below-32-degree weather. It was a crucial factor, since it would have been three times the hassle if it had re-melted into a sticky mess.

Leaning on the shovel handle 20 minutes later, I said to myself, “Thank God I didn’t still have a case of Diet Coke stored in my….”

Oh wait – There’s a case of Diet Coke tucked in my SUV, ready for those long commutes home from my Van Deusen Hall night class.

Yep, those cans had exploded, too; inside my vehicle.

Luckily I was able to brush out the still-frozen Coke-particles from the SUV’s cargo-bay carpet relatively easily. For the rest of the interior detailing job, God bless Windex.

Not all the Diet Coke cans in my garage hoard had ruptured, so I moved on to serious triage – trying to rescue the survivors and taking them inside to consume their precious, caffeinated liquid.

One additional scientific discovery: It turns out that when you bring un-exploded frozen Diet Coke cans inside the house, they can still explode violently later, as they thaw. Don’t ask how I know this – Let’s just say it’s considered proprietary scientific research.

Pamela Tabar is an adjunct lecturer of journalism and mass communication and wrote the above story for her friend and Stater adviser Carl Schierhorn. Contact her at [email protected].