Sunday, December 29, 2013

hot and cold breath

We all know how to breathe hot air ("hahhh") and cold air ("whooo") — but *what* is making it hot or cold?

Jason: I have wondered that myself in the past... I would assume: 1) speed of air, 2) surface area of mouth opening, and 3) whether the air comes from the bronchial tubes or mouth???

Barry: But the air invariably comes from the lungs, and even when you "whooo" slowly it's still cool. A puzzlement!

Jason: I think it is primarily the surface area of the opening and cavity. With the hahhh you have a LOT more, and that is all at 98.6

Barry: Compelling: something about the ratio of 98.6º surface area to the mass of air flowing past it. But then that begs the question: what temperature was the air when it was *in* your body?

Jason: All 98.6. But the reason it would be cooler when quickly pushed through with a whoooo, is same effect of a "swamp" cooler (or evaporative cooler)

Barry: On reflection, I think that has to be it.

Kelly: It acts on the same principle as an air conditioner, when a gas expands it cools. By pursing your lips you can compress the air by "lip resistance" and releasing it causes it to expand. By exhaling there is no pressurization.

Carl: The problem with that explanation is that the pressurization would increase the temperature as much as the depressurization decreases it.

I've always assumed it has to do with velocity (or, more accurately, convection). The air is lower than body temperature either way because it is only exposed to the inside of your body for a second or two, but it is nonetheless higher than the ambient air. So when it comes out with negligible velocity, you can sense that it is hotter than ambient temperature, but when it comes out at a higher speed, it is transfers a significant enough amount of energy away from your skin (being of a lower temperature than your skin) that it seems cooler than ambient air.

This is vaguely similar to the reason that 75° water feels cooler than 75° air: it's coefficient of convection is higher. But in the situation at hand, you're increasing the coefficient by adjusting the velocity of the fluid (this is not a technically correct statement) rather than by substituting a more convective fluid.

Kelly: But if it were merely convection this would only have an effect on the skin as consistent with "wind chill". This effect would not have an effect on something without moisture, such as a window. Even if you huff quickly it will fog or purse your lips and blow slowly it will not.

As I've been contemplating the water temperature vs the air temperature on the body could it be that water is a greater great heat sink and has a greater capacity? Possibly?

Carl: Kelly, you're right that my argument essentially boils down to "wind chill." Convection affects any body, though, with or without moisture; it's just a matter of heat transfer and the 3rd law of thermodynamics. I'm not sure I understand your point about fog on a window, but I'll readily admit I don't know why the moisture in your breath would be more likely to condense on a window when blown "open mouth," but not "closed." My best guess (off the top of my head) would still be velocity. Even if you blow fast "open" and slow "closed," I imagine the latter would still be considerably faster than the former because of the extreme effect of throttling. If that's the case, then the moisture simply wouldn't have time to settle on the glass. (I recognize that may be faulty, though.)

And when you say that water is a greater heat sink, that's essentially the same as saying that it has a higher coefficient of convection, as I understand it.

Kelly: Would moisture condense in the mouth as an effect of greater velocity in the mouth cavity? This is quite a quandary...

Carl: you've gone beyond even my pretended knowledge there. I guess greater pressure would make it condense... I think.

Kelly: Okay, being the scientist that I am, I had to perform an experiment to figure this out.

Equipment: Calibrated digital thermometer with a K-Type thermocouple.

Control was ambient air temp. 79.8° F

First experiment: pursed lips, quick blow: Temp increase 6.1° F. Open mouth "huff": Temp increase 10.9° F.

Second experiment in a refrigerator. Temp 36° F

Pursed lips, quick blew: Temp increase 10.3°F. Open mouth "huff": 15.2° F.

Conclusion: Ambient air is taken in and incorporated more efficiently with a thin, fast paced stream of air more than a wide slow stream of air. In addition, the temperature differential (delta T) between refrigerated air is heated and caused a greater effect.

Any other observations are welcome. Y'all have a great weekend! Tschuss!

PS: In addition, I moved the thermocouple closer to my pursed lips and the temperature differential was greater (less air infusion).

Carl: wow... impressed. I'm just an armchair engineer.

Kelly: And yes, Carl, the feel on our skin would thus be very influenced by ambient air at a higher velocity, thus the "wind chill effect". Therefore the award goes to us both! Cheers!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

skiing reindeer says

Monday, December 23, 2013

christmas cookies

One of the many pleasures of being married to Catherine is her skill at baking, won from her years as a professional baker. Her work is not only delicious, but very pleasing to the eye as well.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

how the numbers lie (and don't)

A favorite blog I've been going through obsessively of late is Laura Wattenberg's baby name wizard blog. Even though we've had our last kid, and named her, the interesting thing is that this blogger goes into hard data, and comes up with the most interesting stuff.

I'll show you an article that to me is enlightening about the art of interpreting data, but promise me you'll get her superb analysis on red-state/blue-state names.

In it, she discovers that on political issues the reds and blues are mainly purple: there's near-complete agreement on things like guns and welfare (though we don't see it because the conversation is often between the extremes) — but the real difference is in names, AND, counterintuitively, the progressive names are coming from the red states and the traditional conservative names are coming from the blue states. (Blue: Patrick, Sarah / Red: Jaxxon, Kynlee) Crazy!! Then she goes into why that's the case, and it's absolutely true and absolutely a revelation.

Meanwhile, this article I wanted to show you is about the name Jacob and its current reign in popularity. In the process, she uses two different graphs that show that though the name is the most popular, the percentage of Jacobs has gone down because of the greater diversity of names (including the mind-boggling fact that in England in 1800, six names covered half the population!!!! Zow! In America in 1950 it was 75 names; now it's in the 500s. That's a wave of change!).

What it points out to me is that numbers do lie if you don't look at the complete message they're giving. Two different people could show you the two different graphs in this blog, and get you to believe two different things — more and more Jacobs! fewer and fewer Jacobs! — but the true story is deeper and more interesting than that. To her credit, she tells the whole story, but how many numbers and charts and graphs do you see everyday that seem to prove something, and what if the people who made them really looked at what the numbers were saying as carefully and insightfully as she does? My guess would be that we'd think differently about money, art, cities, health care, relationships, kids, everything we think we're informed about.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

canting unbutton

This morning, Greta said, "I keep on can'ting unbutton these!"

We all have stories of kids plugging in grammar in odd ways. Just about every kid, when instructed emphatically to behave, has protested, "But I am being have!" It's a blast hearing all the strange things that come out when a child is learning the language.

Beyond that blast, though, is a philosophy: the idea that the world makes sense. "I goed potty!" "Look at those mouses!" — while it would be less than ideal to hear both those sentences spoken in the same conversation, they're a perfect example of a kid getting grammar right, in a sense: they show that there's a global set of rules in the kid's mind that that kid is beginning to follow. He or she might not know all the exceptions yet, but deep down it's pretty cool that an -ed on a past-tense verb or an -es on a plural is now something firmly in that kid's mind, to apply to new words and ideas.

Even if those words and ideas are exceptions. English is a language of exceptions, maybe more than other languages that aren't so mongrel. So it's frustrating for a kid. You have to learn pretty early that those rules don't quite work all the time, and you have to learn when and how they don't. Sheeeesh!

The thing is, it never stops. We are constantly guilty of thinking that the world makes sense. We apply these global rules — the just are rewarded and the unjust punished; people make economic decisions rationally — and we pay a price for it.

Again and again, we keep on can'ting unbutton the truth about life.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

we three kings

Here's a great gift idea: have a few copies of "We Three Kings" ready in gift bags, for the unexpected boss/employee/friend/relative/whomever.

AND: for every 2 you buy, we'll throw in a third FREE.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

carrots, education, and kelly

Clara and I are sitting here eating carrot disks. You make them by slicing up a very large carrot into very thin disks, making a very pleasing near-translucent wheel.

Looking at the patterns in the wheel, I'm transported to my year of living with Kelly Sellers. He and Shawn Floyd and I were roommates for a college senior year, and provided enough comedy and scholarly material for an entire lifetime.

Kelly was one of those dream roommates: infallibly open-minded and open-hearted, with manners to match, quite liberal and quite conservative and quite moderate in all the right places. Like his other two roommates, he was enthusiastic about college — and not just the parties and friends but the college part of college, which includes going to classes and studying and expanding the mind. Early evenings were often spent with the three of us sitting around our slightly un-collegey living-room, surrounded by mahogany antiques and oil paintings, perhaps with a pipe, absorbed in reading our separate textbooks and nontextbooks in pleasant silence.

Invariably, one of us would break the silence with something from whatever we were reading, and, for seconds or minutes, there might be a brief discussion. Philosopher, biologist, and composer thus educated each other as part of educating ourselves: it was as valuable as anything tuition paid for.

One afternoon, Kelly ate a carrot, and, over the course of roughly 40 minutes, narrated his eating of it, calling attention to the ingenious architecture of the carrot and the various functions of each carrot part as each was uncovered by a nibble.

He'd been learning, in his giant biology textbooks, all about the processes that go on in a plant: the way one part nourishes another, how one part protects the other part as it grows, why the outer part tastes rich and sweet and the inner tastes stalky and bitter, and how this all helps the plant survive into planthood where it can function in the larger world. He was plugging this information in to his daily life, seeing if it really worked, cementing it into his brain where it helped him pass a test — but he was not doing only that.

He was also preparing himself to be the Chief Chemist at a technology corporation, which is what he does now. He was making himself a better chemist, and, in my opinion of education, a better man. Many people live their lives, and that's jolly well great; but some look at the lives they're living, and attempt to understand what's going on, what makes it all tick.

Among other things, that's what college is for. It teaches you how to eat a carrot, and how to treasure the examined life for as long as it lasts.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

problem-solving in a healthy place

After a disagreement about how I was doing something in Catherine's church, I got this note from one of the main actors.

I have a different approach to this than you do. This does not make either of us ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, just different. I’m fine with that. I totally support you in what you're doing. I am blessed by what you are doing. I’ve no intention of getting involved with it and would be extremely upset if you tried to alter what you do to suit me. That’s a pressure I don’t need. It’s not about me; it’s doing what God calls you to do, in your way and time. Repeat: I would be very upset if you tried to please or placate me; I would not support you in that. I’m happy. I want us to have the freedom to be different and to behave differently. 

Now you see how glad I am to be in this place. How'd you like to be involved in a church, office, family, — anything — like this one?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

that country music "ay"

Are you familiar with the phenomenon of Sacred Harp singing? It's like a cross between a quilting bee and bagpiping, but sung.

This right here is a 1958 recording of Sacred Harp singers from Okeefenokee region of SE Georgia and NE Florida. If you can stand to get through it enough to get past the syllables and into the lyrics, you'll hear them clearly pronounce diadem "die-ay-dem," thus showing that the country pop music practice of substituting an "ay" for a schwa is well-grounded in one of the source regions for that music.

Wɛiɛl ɐ'll be ɛi monkey's uncle.

Monday, December 2, 2013

callas turns 90

Happy ninetieth birthday, Maria Callas.

Much was and is said about her: her glamour, her weight losses and gains, her fling with Aristotle Onassis, her bringing of opera to a new audience.

But let us never forget one main fact: she worked hard and honed her craft, and was good at making music.

Her characterizations of Aida and Violetta were and are unforgettable. Her raw, odd voice pierced the heart immediately. And those things happened because she was determined that they would happen.