Why Bridges Cool Faster than Regular Roads and Backing Up Your Facts

“Look at all the ice on that bridge,” my mother drives said as she drove slowly over it.

“Do you know why there is ice on the bridge and not the road,” I asked, using a tone of remeniscent of my toddler days when I would ask her a question, she would answer it, and then I would tell her she was wrong only to re-answer the question with her original answer.

“No, Jamilah. Tell me why.” She says in the tone she adopted for such exchanges that reads “Tell me something I might already know. Show me those thousands of dollars for school meant something.”

“Well, a bridge cools faster because it has wind hitting it on the bottom and the top. A road can’t cool down as fast because even though the wind is hitting it on top, the heat trapped under the ground is keeping the road warm.”

“Back it up with facts.”

“Wait, what?”

“Back it up with facts.”

“Wait! You don’t believe me.”

“I just think your theory sounds like it needs facts.”

“I feel like Galileo right now. Stop persecuting me Vatican!”

“And I feel like I’m a Gen X-er sitting next to a Millennial who thinks that they are always right.”

“But I learned all of this from a Gen X-er!”

“Doesn’t matter. Back it up with facts.”


I was floored that she didn’t believe me. I  knew I was right about this fact. I have been in enough chemistry and physics labs for college credit that some of what we were forced to do at the time has stuck in my brain and hopefully will be there forever.

When I typed in “why do bridges cool faster” on google, the first link won it for me.

The freezing wind strikes the bridge above and below and on both sides, so it’s losing heat from every side. The road is only losing heat from its surface. Even while the temperature on the road surface is dropping, the heat underneath the road keeps it warm enough to prevent icing as temperatures in the atmosphere drop below freezing. Bridges have no way to trap any heat, so they will continually lose heat and freeze shortly after temperatures in the atmosphere hit the freezing point. (1)

See, Mom! Told you that there was no reason for me to do a quick search google to find something so arbitrary.

Gloating aside, I understand her thought process in needing me to give her concrete facts and sources. While everything I said was a fact and I believe that telling my mom about thermodynamics just seemed unnecessary, I shouldn’t be surprised that someone (at this moment my mom) doesn’t believe what I said. We are in an age where we can get information from anywhere and it doesn’t have to be correct to be put out as a fact. Although it is truly hard to admit, she had a point in telling me to give her proof because she really doesn’t know if I am lying or not. She isn’t Einstein nor is she enrolled in a physics class.  For all she knows I could be lying. I could have told her that the reason that bridges freeze faster is because of the magnetic pull of the electrons  in snow and the electrons in from the steel in the bridge. Throw in a little “covalent bond” this and “hydrogen bonding” that and VOILA!! a lot of scientfic babble used to make someone who doesn’t really know science think “hmmm. Well since I don’t know that could be right.” When in all actuality, it is utter crap. My mom’s “back it up with facts” wasn’t there to annoy me (although it really did and still does), I have to believe she said it in order to keep me on my toes and force me to do some actual work  and not just talk out my mouth about stuff I could pretend to know about.

Now if I wanted to be extremely childish, I could say that I learned nothing from this exchange except that I am and will always be right in whatever I say, forever and always. However, what I truly learned is that even if you think you know everything, being able to give people sources backs your claim and gives your arguement legs to stand on. Oh and people should drive super slow on bridges because they are snowy death traps. I bet you knew that part already, so I won’t even ask you to give me sources.


1. (2001, February).”Why do Bridges Ice Before The Rest of the the Highway”. Retrieved from http://science.howstuffworks.com

One comment on “Why Bridges Cool Faster than Regular Roads and Backing Up Your Facts”

  1. Theothercat says:

    Cool story. <see what I did there? Hey, seriously,that was interesting. In defense of moms, they may not know much about covalent bonding, but they are all over VOILA!

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