Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Living in the real world

What a difference a day makes. It began raining yesterday morning, and continued to late afternoon. Over an inch and a half, and more expected today. The high yesterday was 80 reached at midnight while the low was 61 reached at noon. Topsy- turvy June is, like a nervous bride.

How can I be sweaty sometimes at 70 degrees, and at others shivering. If it's a very humid 70 and no wind, but lots of sun, it feels hot. The humidex, which measures how warm it feels (higher humidity makes it feel warmer), can be above 80 while the "actual" temperature is 70. And then there is the wind chill effect, where the wind makes it feel colder than the "actual" temperature. But wait, have you considered this a bit?

Ok, it's 70 humid degrees, so we have this heavy air pushing down on your skin, the air screaming "70 degrees" at you, and you feel warmer. Okay. But then, if it's windy, we have lots more of the "70 degrees" rushing past you - and this makes you colder. Huh?

And then there are the two temperatures. Do you remember this from school? The dry bulb temperature, and the wet bulb temperature. Yes there are two kinds of thermometers, though no one but a weather geek would have (or maybe even know about) the wet bulb thermometer. Sometimes the wet bulb temp can differ by up to 10 degrees. This is why it can snow at 40 degrees and rain at 28 degrees.

So which reality do we live in? The dry bulb or the wet bulb? We live in both realities, though you can see a bit of the mysteriousness of it with this simple look at the matter of temperature. How hot is it? How cold is it? There is more than one correct answer. Or rather, there is no definitive answer. Mix in perception, and you've got dozens of answers. (In our house, I'm often cold while Serge feels hot.)

We can study the science, and the Weather Channel guys think they've got their brains wrapped around it, but you've got to admit, it's a little magical.

Even in the "real" world, "reality" is difficult to pin down, like trying to remember that dream you were having.


Rebekah said...

I have absolutely no memory of the wet and dry bulb temperature.

This was thought provoking. I feel a metaphor coming on.

Em said...

Wait, the dry bulb vs. wet bulb measurements are only measurements which means they are only descriptions of reality and not reality (a singular thing) itself.

Also, ooh, oooh, pick me, I know the one about the 70 degrees rushing past you. Because it is a heat exchange situation. So with the wind it is carrying away a tiny bit of your personal heat at every minute. Whereas if it isn't rushing by your heat is staying around you like a warm cocoon.

It all feels magical to me though too.

Anne said...

Reality will always be a fluid concept. Think about Descartes. Cogito ergo sum. This is the only true reality.

Em said...

Well sure, but possibly it is fluid only because there are so many of us perceiving it. I totally embrace the idea that we thinkers can only grasp our own experience with reality.

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