Being hot isn’t always enough to make water boil. To form vapor bubbles, water and other liquids need imperfections that serve as seeds. In the absence of these, the liquid can become superheated, reaching temperatures higher than its boiling point without forming bubbles. Superheated water can be quite dangerous because it appears to be cooler, but once it’s disturbed – thereby breaking its surface tension – vapor bubbles form rapidly and explosively. You can see in the animation above just how quickly and unsteadily a sudden vapor bubble expands as it rises to the surface. (Image credit: C. Kalelkar and K. Raj, source)

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