Food: Ice
spongiform ice   (+6, -1)  [vote for, against]
Ice with holes in it

Ice in a drink cools the drink in proportion to the ice's surface. To cool something faster, one could use shaved ice or smaller pieces of ice, but they're difficult to handle (they tend to melt a little and then stick together.)

Instead, produce ice cubes that have a larger surface, but the same outside shape; a lattice of holes inside the ice cube means that the ice cube will cool a drink faster. (Of course, the total level of cooling will go down since there's less overall ice; for a drink you'll be nursing all night, big cubes still work best.)

Alternative application: when the ACs are breaking down in the summer heat, I've tried to cool my office by having a fan blow air across a big bag of ice cubes. Playing with the ice cubes was fun, but I don't think it really did much to lower the temperature. I wish there was a "meltable one-time AC" built from spongiform ice through which air could be blown with a noticeable effect.

[Hoarfrost? Cool! Maybe have an outside hollow cube with spikes inside...]
-- jutta, Jan 18 2001

Megner Sponge http://library.thin...2/full/fm/fm23.html
Finite volume, finite dimensions, infinite surface area (Oops - zero surface area!) [hippo, Jan 18 2001]

Megner Sponge
Ah - these people say that the Megner sponge has an infinite surface area. [hippo, Jan 18 2001]

No way to make them from ice, as yet anyway. [rmutt, Jan 18 2001]

I wonder about methods for freezing ice cubes of this nature: A tray with a set of retractable skewers running through it? A "lid" for an ordinary tray which presses plastic shapes into the water (allows no lattices, though, and may cause overflows)? A device which bubbles air through the water as it freezes, or suspends air in it? Or just freeze aerated / carbonated water?

Is this likely to dilute a drink less than ordinary cubes in cooling it down to the same temperature? But perhaps you meant the total amount of water involved once all the melting is over with.
-- Monkfish, Jan 19 2001

The lotto machine that keeps balls in circulation looks cool ... I wonder if?
-- reensure, Jan 19 2001

Monkfish, what I was thinking is that the drink will be less diluted in total because there's less ice involved; but since dilution is proportional to the cooling effect, the ice cube with holes in it will initially dilute the drink *more*. I've dropped that from the idea's text.

Means of production: yeah, that's roughly the things I was tossing around in my head, too. Slightly conical skewers are the only ones that I could see trying (they might not even have to be retractable.) How do they make air chocolate, anyway?

Lotto machine for drinks: I'm looking for a low-tech solution (especially to the AC problem); but automatically scooping round ice cubes with numbers on them out of a big lotto machine punch bowl sounds like an interesting concept drink in itself...
-- jutta, Jan 19 2001

I dunno if this is exactly what everybody's thinking of, but several restaurants around here <Florida, USA> have tubular ice cubes. 3/4ths of an inch across, a hole 1/4th" across down the long axis. They aren't conical. Never seen one of the machines that make them, so I don't know how they're made, but the holes are cylindrical, not conical...
-- StarChaser, Jan 19 2001

Not exactly, but those should be about 1 1/2 as effective as normal cubes. (Are they?) I wonder if, and how, that idea could be pushed to extremes.
-- jutta, Jan 19 2001

Quite so. For optimal cooling, you want ice that's foamy on the outside (to cool the drink initially) and a solid sphere at the core (to keep it cold as long as possible).

Specifically, you want to add exactly one such foamy iceball to your drink, to minimize the surface area of the core once you finally get there.
-- egnor, Jan 19 2001

An ice cube in the shape of a Megner sponge (funny, I always thought this was called a Serpinski sponge) would have a theoretically infinite surface area. See link.

(later annotation) Oh crap - This is the wrong one. This sponge fractal has zero surface area...

(aha! even later annotation) Some say that the Megner sponge has zero surfce area, some say that it has infinite surface area. See link. They can't both be right...
-- hippo, Jan 19 2001

The Sierpinski/Megner sponge theoretically has zero volume and infinite surface area. In practice, however, one can approximate such a sponge but it is impossible to actually create a true Megner sponge.

As an alternative to ice cubes perhaps one could use a fine mist of liquid nitrogen to cool a drink. The trick would be preventing the drink from freezing. Perhaps this problem could be solved by making the mist fine enough. Maybe we'd be better off just using a drink dispenser that cools the drink itself and then uses ordinary cubes to keep it cold. Or produce a drink with a very high heat capacity so that much more heat is required to raise its temperature.
-- RinkRabbit, Jan 19 2001

Another possibility could be to confine the cooling area. I'm unable to link to anything relevant (Fast Ice production is interesting, though) but an understandable example is pulling a thin walled balloon through an ice ring. This would allow better control of the direction that cool air would be distributed. The vector of a controlled release of cool air would improve a unit's efficiency over today's chute dischargers.
-- reensure, Jan 19 2001

Actually, isn't ice with a maximum surface-area-to-volume ratio just snow? I imagine adding snow to drinks would cool them pretty quickly. Anyone with access to snow like to experiment?
-- hippo, Jan 19 2001

The Menger sponge is the limit of a sequence formed by iteratively removing sections from a cube. Every element in this sequence has a greater surface area than the preceding one. In fact, the surface area approaches infinity. It's tempting to conclude from this that the surface area of the sponge itself is infinite, but limits don't work that way; lim f(g(x)) does not necessarily equal f(lim g(x)). I find the argument on the thinkquest page more convincing: the surface area of each face approaches zero, so the total area of all the faces also approaches zero.

Of course, this is all academic because, as RinkRabbit points out, you can't make an actual Menger sponge out of matter, and any approximation you create is going to have surface area greater than a cube of the same size.
-- baf, Jan 19 2001

Perhaps somebody could design a drink with two good-tasting ingredients that undergo an endothermic reaction with a rate constant in the minute or hour range to form a product also having a good taste. If the tastes all were good, then you could have a self-cooling drink with a dynamic taste... you better start drinking as soon as its mixed though!
If this was put in a can, you could separate the intitial solutions in such a way that opening the can disturbs the partition.
-- badoingdoing, Jan 19 2001

PeterSealy, please read the end of the first paragraph of the idea; it addresses the existing alternatives.

I don't think crushed ice stores very well (it sticks together), and I want a cheap commodity that doesn't require outside tools. Otherwise, yes, it would solve the drink problem (and I actually really like crushed ice, if someone else does the crushing) - but not the AC one.
-- jutta, Jan 20 2001

You could try using those plastic ice cubes.

A way to produce the ice you're thinking about would be to have a cup. Then you have a lid. The lid has very fine, very straight needles that extend the height of the cup. You must keep in mind, however, that water will not easily penetrate extremely fine holes (or tubes in the ice); further, since ice floats, not all of the pores can fill up with water.

I don't agree with the "shaken not stirred" cocepts that I've seen here and elsewhere. The best way I've found to mix a martini is to chill the glass in the freezer, keep the vodka or gin in the freezer, and keep the vermouth in the fridge. Pour the vermouth (one part) into the chilled glass, add four parts vodka or gin (not necessarily five shots now!) and stir. This is the very coldest you can make the drink (which is essential), unless you want to super-chill the liquids with something colder than your freezer.

The only reason I can see to shake a martini is if all the ingredients and glass are not pre-chilled (which is probably the case with most bars). Perhaps in Bond's situation stirred implied putting the ingredients on the rocks.

I do not recommend the above method for Manhattans. The bitters is a strong but undilute ingredient that needs to be shaken into the bourbon (or, preferably, rye) and sweet vermouth. I recommend a "wet" Manhattan in the case of bourbon--two parts to one of sweet vermouth, dash of bitters; and a drier Manhattan in the case of rye: four parts to one of sweet vermouth, dash of bitters.

These two cocktails are the very best.
-- Vance, Feb 06 2001

How about selling beverages which are stronger than normal, such that when the ice melts the concentration will be as it should be?
-- supercat, Feb 06 2001

random, halfbakery