Tag Archives: science

Thermometer: Extraordinary Ordinary Things

I live in Brussels. Every time I leave my house, I am bombarded with information about the air temperature because most pharmacies here seem obsessed with showing the air temperature on electronic signs outside their shops, along with the time of day (24-hour clock) and the establishment’s business hours. I imagine the same is true in cities throughout Europe, North America, and elsewhere. We can’t seem to live without constantly being reminded of how warm or cold it is. It is virtually an obsession.

But of course most of us don’t need to leave home to get temperature information. In my case, all I need to do is go out to my terrace and look at the thermometer hanging on the wall. This is something I do faithfully virtually every morning when I wake up, as well as two or three times during the day. It is like a game. I check the thermometer in the morning (usually about 7 a.m.), look at the sky, feel the moisture in the air, and try to guess how high the temperature will rise during the day.

I am talking about a simple liquid thermometer, i.e. the type in which liquid in a glass tube rises and falls as the temperature rises and falls. This is generally what most people mean when they say “check the thermometer.” However; there are many other types of thermometers they might be checking such as the type you reach for when feeling ill, the type you stick into meat when cooking it, the temperature gauge in your automobile, etc. Still, no matter where you go, there is almost always a thermometer around whether we notice them or not. And we cannot seem to live without them.

This is why I consider the thermometer, in whatever form, fully deserves to be included on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.

Continue reading Thermometer: Extraordinary Ordinary Things

Language Lessons from a Steam-powered Light Bulb

People who make a career in science, computers or otherwise, generally do so because they are naturally drawn to it. They find science fascinating and entertaining, and thus are usually very good at it.

This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it means they will spend most of their life doing essentially what they want to do; not everyone is so lucky. It is a curse because their instinctive understanding of science may cover up unsuspected misunderstandings, making it difficult to explain to others what they are doing and why it is important. Worse, these unsuspected misunderstandings may make certain aspects of the science to which they are naturally drawn less than pleasant, rendering them more of a burden than a pleasure. Continue reading Language Lessons from a Steam-powered Light Bulb