Eric Wolff: impurities in ice

Eric Wolff comments on the effect on ice of its impurities, including the shape of glaciers.

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I like ice, I mean I’ve – yeah, I like ice, I like looking at ice, it’s pretty: colours, shapes, sparkling and so on. It’s a container for my – for my samples [laughs], it’s a natural container. I suppose what I would say it’s not, although I mean I do the same as shorthand, I say that I study ice but actually I very rarely study ice, I normally study the impurities in the ice; if the ice was really only water it would actually be pretty boring. Nearly everything that I do comes from the fact that it’s not just water, so even when you say I’m looking at these electrical properties of ice, the electrical properties are deriving entirely from the one in a million molecules that aren’t ice. And if you measure a radar profile through ice and you see these layers in the radar, actually those radar layers are deriving from the fact that one in a million molecules is actually sulphuric acid not ice, well one in a million, is that an exaggeration, maybe one in 100,000. So it’s actually the bits that aren’t ice that are what drive my work generally. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be any interest if ice was pure ice but it certainly – it would be quite different actually, even the ice sheet would be different, it would be a different shape because the ice flows slightly differently if it’s got one in 10,000 or one in 100,000 dust particles in it, it makes the ice flow differently. And so even the shape of the ice sheet would be slightly different, I mean you know, we – we wouldn’t be saying to us – if the ice didn’t have impurities in we wouldn’t probably ever recognise oh if only we put impurities in the ice the ice sheet would be a different shape but nonetheless it’s true [laughs].

  • Interviewee Eric Wolff
  • Duration 00:01:53
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 6/8/2012
  • Shelfmark C1379/70
  • Keywords

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