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Tuesday
Jan172017

Winter Blues? Cold Isn’t Really Much of an Effervescent Thing

I start dreading winter on July 4th. So, if you are not a fan of winter I get it. If it helps you feel better remember that cold isn’t categorically much of a real thing.

Hot and cold are not really opposite and independent entities as they are often referred to in common speak.

When someone asks you how hot it is on a summer day and you answer “eighty degrees,” you are telling them how hot it is outside. When someone asks you how cold it is on a winter day and you answer “fifteen degrees,” you are still telling them how hot it is outside. The thermometer is gauging how much heat is in the air in both cases. The only difference is that fifteen degrees is not comfortably warm for people.

Heat is generated by some type of energy. Your furnace burns gas or some other type of fuel source to produce heat. By contrast, an air conditioner does not produce cold. An air conditioner removes the heat. A refrigerator also removes the heat albeit from a smaller space. Cold is simply an abstract term that we use to describe the absence of heat.

Temperature measurement is important in terms of determining heat because it is an objective quantifier.

I love a hot and humid 90 degree summer day and might describe it as a great day. Other people not so much.

Not only do human beings have different opinions about what is hot or cold but our own body temperature can interfere with our senses. Let’s suppose we have a room that is 50 degrees. Inside of the room is a smooth piece of metal and a folded blanket sitting on a table. If you touch the metal and then the blanket which one will be cooler? The answer is that they are both 50 degrees. However, the metal will feel cooler to your touch because it is a conductor of heat. The metal draws the heat out of your hand giving you the sensation of cold. The blanket, by contrast, is an insulator of heat giving you the sensation of added warmth.

If we could survive a state in which there simply was a total absence of heat beyond any practical measurement, you might say that we were nearing absolute zero. (Scientists attain temperatures close to absolute zero in laboratories, a point where matter exhibits “really cool” quantum effects.) Absolute zero is the lower limit of the thermodynamic temperature scale which equates to about −459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.

I would say that is really cold. No, I mean completely cold in the most out-and-out sense of the term.

I can guarantee you our winter will not be that bad. So, why not cheer up and try to generate some heat once in a while?

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