Not Brrr -- Ouch


The thermometer outside my window read -1°F when I started getting dressed, and the weather pages said it was two degrees warmer than that when I got to the lab. Not far from my house, there's a section of sidewalk that got covered in slush during the thaw, which is now frozen into a rock hard uneven and cratered moonscape. Biking over it this morning, I figured I'm pretty much just an air tank away from riding on the surface of Europa. (No, I don't generally bike on sidewalks; this is the sidewalk that runs in front of my house, which I take for a block when there's too much frozen muck plowed up in the driveway.)

It occurred to me that this is why Arctic cultures have umpteen words for things like cold, and snow. Because what it is outside just now, is a completely different thing than what I grew up calling "cold." Cold was when you put on thick socks and a jacket before going to school, when you could see your breath and if you stood around outside too long you'd start to shiver. Biking on a sunny subzero day there's no danger of shivering if you're dressed at all appropriately (which is to say, a bit like an astronaut). Outside the cold is like a form of radiation that you must shield yourself against. Choosing what to wear becomes a tradeoff between the ability to see and the fact that your face will hurt when you arrive from exposure to the outside, the ability to operate brake levers versus fingertips that will be red and stinging as though scalded.

Tomorrow it will be even colder, and if I go out I'll take my chances with the brakes, and wear the big warm gauntlets.


Do you want a ride to the bowling alley?

Don't forget the lead jacket for your Europa jaunt.

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on January 18, 2008 2:26 PM.

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