There Is No Such Thing as Cold


More snow. More icy cold. But here’s an encouraging scientific thought. Scientifically speaking, there is no such thing as cold. “Cold” doesn’t exist. It is simply the relative absence of thermal energy, just as “darkness” is the relative absence of light.

What is thermal energy? It is a form of molecular motion. Heat molecules up, and they move faster. They get “hotter.” Take their thermal energy away, and they move slower (until at some point, they come to a virtual standstill). They get “colder.” Our human measuring stick of cold — temperature — measures this molecular motion.

This episode of the award-winning PBS television series Nova shows how scientists used imagination and experimentation to finally figure out, less than 200 years ago, what “cold” truly is. When you have the time, it is well worth your time to watch. Take the laptop over by the fire, because baby, it’s relatively lacking in thermal energy outside!

Young Girl Winter


I asked my daughter Kate to tell me her favorite season.

She said, “all of them.”

Forgotten by Adults

For busy grownups, that’s hard to fathom. Most of the time, we grouse perfunctorily about “Old Man Winter.” Sometimes, when the snow falls early and often, or when 50-mile-per-hour winds whip the flakes into a whiteout that shuts down highways, we curse him.

We didn’t once. Remember?

Long before we cursed the winter, we reveled in it — as much as we still find ways to revel in spring, summer, and fall. We weren’t so practical then, so worn down by scraping and shoveling or so worried about the roads. We didn’t have anywhere to be that couldn’t wait. Cold and snow weren’t a nuisance. They simply were winter.

Now we permit ourselves just one day to revel in the white: Christmas. Five inches of snow fell this year on Christmas Eve. No one complained that night. Quite the opposite. It was the whitest Christmas I can remember, and it was glorious.

Remembered by Poets

While we long for the growth of spring, practically worship the warmth of summer, and celebrate the colors of fall, we’re fairly cold to winter’s joys. Fortunately, some of our greatest books sing winter’s songs in harmony with our kids. The writers of these books have remembered what our children haven’t yet forgot.

As one of the characters in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost says:

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

“To every thing there is a season.” Shakespeare remembered. Similarly, one of Japan’s greatest haiku masters, Matsuo Basho, pined for a proper winter in 1666:

a winter shower
the pine tree is unhappy and
waiting for snow

Is there a more beautiful winter sight than evergreen branches drooping under snow’s white weight? Is anything more out of place than rain in winter? Basho remembered.

Embraced Again by Learners

I asked my daughter what she likes best about winter. She said, “the snow.”

I asked her what she likes best about the snow. She said, “you can play in it.”

Don’t you get cold? “Not when I am playing.”

Old Man Winter? No, it’s Young Girl Winter — inviting us to play in the snow again.

10 Million Light Years in 60 Seconds


The "Black Eye" Galaxy (M64)

According to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is.”

That’s why we’ve always bookmarked this Java tutorial. With it, you can travel 10 million light years in 60 seconds — and so imagine just how spacious space is.

The tutorial will beam you 100 quintillion (1020) kilometers from Earth, to a place in space where the Milky Way galaxy is just one of many galaxies beckoning from a distance. Then, each click will take you an order of magnitude closer to home. But even traveling at that exponential speed, it will take you 15 clicks to see the beautiful Blue Marble again. And once you’re back on Earth, there is a microscopic universe to explore!
» Click here to travel 10 million light years in 60 seconds

Stay Tuned – Posts Begin This Fall


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