States do Matter

by Sarah Pritchard

Once upon a time there lived a not too evil (just a bit unpleasant really), not too bright Queen named Meredith. Queen Meredith decided that she wanted to have a child but couldn’t be bothered to go through the whole waiting process, so she sent one of her guards out into the forest to pick up a girl or boy under the age of 12 (she wasn’t fussed whether it was a girl or a boy, just so long as it wasn’t a teenager!).
“You must go to the Queen,” Lana’s mother said, wringing her skirt with both hands in anguish, “you have to convince her to release your brother.”
Lana sighed, “Really? Do I have too? It’s rather pleasant without having him around.” Lana wasn’t an unkind girl, but her younger brother did annoy her, rather a lot sometimes, as is often the case with siblings.
Laura’s mother let out a choked sob, dabbing her eyes with a damp and now, quite snotty, tissue.
“Ok, Ok I’ll go,” said Lana, uncurling her legs from under her, as she rose from the sofa and put down her science magazine. “But I do think we could leave it a few days; she’ll soon return him once she has spent some time with him,” she muttered quietly to herself, “especially once she’s experienced the amount of smells emanating from the various places on him”.
Lana pulled her long brown hair into a pony tail; saddled her horse and headed towards the castle. Luckily, the Queen decided to see her.
“Erm, hi Queen Meredith, you have my brother and my mum is really upset, so she’d quite like him back...if that’s ok?” Lana began, “personally, I’d be more than happy for you to keep him, but you know...” She shrugged her shoulders.
Queen Meredith stood up gracefully, the jewels on her crown refracting light and casting rainbows across the ceiling, her long dress swaying and bobbing like a field of corn in a light summer breeze. Lana looked down and noticed that Queen Meredith’s shoes were on the wrong feet.
I am the Queen and I wanted the boy for my own however, I will give you the chance to win him back, if you so wish?”
“Erm, yeah ok, I guess? What..” Lana replied, still thinking about the Queens’ shoes.
“You will be given three tasks to complete,” the Queen interrupted, “if you finish these three tasks, then you may have the boy.”
“Okay,” Lana drew out the syllables of the word. Maybe the first task will be to teach her to put her shoes on the correct feet, she thought.
“Task One,” Queen Meredith declared, flinging her hands up in the air and throwing her head back, “is to build me a box made of a solid; you have one day. Now go!”
Lana smiled and returned home.
“You have to do what?” asked her mother frowning, but at least she wasn’t quite so snotty as before.
“Easy peasy, lemon squeezy,” replied Lana, “a solid is the easiest state of matter to make something out of. The particles are uniform, close together with strong forces holding those particles together; it will hold its own shape and is ideal to build with.”
Lana worked through the night, completed the box and returned to the castle the next day.
“Very good job,” said Queen Meredith, who, Lana noted, was trying to eat soup with a fork, “I thought it would be more difficult than that.”
“Task Two,” Queen Meredith began, making everyone jump in the castle around her,
“is to build me a throne made of liquid.”
“Okay,” said Lana, thinking desperately of how she might do this, as liquids did not hold their shape and the particles were randomly arranged. They also had weaker forces between the particles than a solid; all in all, not the best building material. “can I choose the liquid?”
“Yes, you may,” responded the Queen, inclining her head towards Lana.
“I’ll have water that is supersaturated with sugar, then please.”
“What’s supercalafragilistic water,” said the Queen.
Lana sighed, “No clue, but water that is supersaturated with sugar, means that no more sugar can be mixed into water.”
“You may have this; you have three days to complete your task. Now go!”
“Seriously?” asked Lana’s mother, “how are you going to build a throne out of this liquid?”
“Easy peasy lemon squeezy,” Lana replied, “whilst the water is liquid, there is also a lot of sugar mixed in; watch and learn mother.”
Lana gathered a number of gardening canes and coated them with a dusting of sugar; she then placed them into the solution.
After a couple of days Lana heaved out the canes, grunting with the effort. The crystals that had formed were a myriad of faceted diamonds, flashing with cut glass brilliance and dispersing multicoloured hues across the grass.
“Wow,” breathed Queen Meredith, admiring the crystalline structures that Lana had fashioned into a throne, “it’s so pretty; however did you do it?”
“Nucleation,” Lana proclaimed.
“Bless you!” said the Queen; Lana rolled her eyes upward in exasperation.
“Your last and final task,” Queen Meredith cried, rising from her new throne in one fluid motion, “will be to build me a palace made from a gas!”
Lana groaned. A gas, she thought, the particles have very weak bonds and move quickly in all directions, they also have a random arrangement, rather like the Queen.
“Can I choose the gas?” Lana asked, an idea starting to formulate.
“You may,” answered the Queen, “what gas would you like?”
“Water as a gas please.”
The Queen laughed, “Water is a liquid, silly girl. How can it be a gas?”
Oh dear, thought Lana, “I’ll show you,” she said, and heated the water to 1000C, where it became a gas.
Queen Meredith clapped her hands in delight “Well I never,” she said. “you have three months to complete the task. Now go”
“A palace!” Lana’s mother exclaimed, “out of gas?”
“Easy peasy, lemon squeezy,” replied Lana, “luckily for us the Queen knows nothing about solids, liquids or gases or how they change state.”
Now the season of Winter was upon them, lakes froze over, snow glistened like fairy dust on pine trees and mountain tops. The gas cooled down to a liquid and then became a Lana set to work, cutting and chipping away, creating her ice palace. The icicle turrets gleamed as they reached for the sky, sunlight danced off the balustrades running around the outside. It was truly a majestic site to behold.
After three months Queen Meredith came to see the ice palace, “What a truly majestic site to behold,” she exclaimed (see I told you), “why, it is far grander and more beautiful than my own palace. This simply will not do; I must have the best, as I am Queen. We will swap houses so that I live here and you can have the palace.
You can also have the boy back...I’m getting rather bored of him anyway and he is rather stinky”
So, Lana, her mother and her brother took up residence in the castle and Queen Meredith lived in the ice palace.
“You were right,” Lana’s mother remarked, “the Queen really isn’t that bright, is she?”
“No,” replied Lana, “Spring will soon be here, the temperatures will rise and we know what will happen to the ice then. I don’t think Queen Meredith will appreciate her ice palace quite so much when it is a puddle of water.” Lana, then twirled around in her golden gown, with her shoes on the correct feet.