A Goldilocks Temperature—Just Right

Snow on Branches for Goldilocks TemperatureHow Cold Is It—Really?

Temperature is hard to figure out. Yesterday I shoveled some snow off my driveway. My digital thermometer told me that it was 13 degrees F, so I wore plenty of clothes. I was finished in about twenty minutes, but by then my fingers and toes hurt. 

Ahhh…what a huge difference from last summer, when I walked on my driveway in 80 degree air wearing shorts and sandals. At least it sure seemed like a huge difference to me. 

But how much difference was there—really? Maybe there is a more objective way for me to measure temperature. I think I’ll use the Kelvin scale because it starts with absolute zero , no heat at all!. (Please stick with me here!) On the Kelvin scale, 32oF (Farenheit) is 273oK. That, of course, is the temperature at which water freezes. If my math is right, yesterday’s 13oF was 262.6oK, and last summer’s 80oF was 299.8oK. 

So yesterday it was 12.4 percent colder than that balmy day last summer. Wow! That seems like a big difference. I’m glad I can survive such extremes!

Unearthly Temperatures

A Billion Degrees of Separation (Click to enlarge)From Absolute Cold
to Absolute Hot

(click twice to enlarge)

Since I seem to be such a survivor, I wonder how I would fair on the moon? (Assuming I could find a way to breath and also not explode with no air pressure to hold my body together!) I Googled it and found that daytime temperatures reach 353oF (178o K) on the moon—OUCH! And at night it hits -387oF (75K). Wow—I better take my wool socks! No wonder the moon astronauts wore such bulky clothing!

I don’t think I’m tough enough to survive the moon’s extreme temperatures, so how about the nearest planet—Venus? “Temperatures on Venus remain consistent over time,” says space.com,” and it’s “Balmy all year-round.” That’s thanks to its dense atmosphere. Wait a minute—when it comes to living on other planets, it’s good to read the fine print! “Balmy” means 872F (740oK), the hottest of any of our Sun’s planets, and hot enough to melt lead!

Maybe a person made of titanium would find that “balmy.” I don’t think I would. Of course, some of earth’s temperatures are not balmy either. At least not the record high of 134oF in Death Valley, California, U.S.A., and not the record low of -96.2oF in Oymyakon, Siberia, Russia.

So I will stay in Grand Haven, where the temperature usually falls between yesterday’s 13oF and last summer’s 80oF.

Here is how to convert some temperatures:
Farenheit to Kelvin
1.8(F-32)+273 = K
Kelvin to Farenheit
1.8(K-273)+32 = F
The temperature scale at the right uses mainly the Celsius scale. Kelvin and Celsius are the same except that in Celsius, zero degrees is 273 degrees Kelvin, the temperature at which water freezes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for some very hot places. If it weren’t for our sun—6,000oK (11,000oF) on its surface—it would be mighty chilly here. And apparently, much hotter places are important to my existence too. The temperature at the core of a super nova is thought to be as high as 100 billion degrees Kelvin. Not a good place to live! But if it weren’t for supernovae, the heavy atoms that are part of me would not exist.

Speaking of hot—I had better quit the big number math or my brain might overheat!

Just Right

Where did I start this discussion? Oh yes: Is the difference between 13o F and 80o F objectively as large as it subjectively seems? And the answer iiiiiis …… No—It’s not! Certainly not when compared to temperatures elsewhere in the universe. And we didn’t even mention the temperature at the very beginning of the universe—the big bang—when the temperature was probably one trillion trillion trillion degrees Kelvin!

I feel like Goldilocks must have felt when she found the chair that was just right. In fact, I probably feel better than she did. She found one of three chairs to be perfect. My little spot (yours too) In the universe of heat and cold stays in less than a billionth of the cosmic heat range. If it didn’t, my fragile body (yours too) would go poof!

Supernova with Ring StructureA Supernova with Rings

So, even if the temperature sometimes feels chilly, my rational mind is telling me it feels just right! 

Well, I see my outdoor thermometer says it has warmed up to almost twenty degrees outside today. And it’s reasonably comfortable indoors too. Still, there is nothing wrong with a little fine tuning. I think I will turn the thermostat up a couple of degrees.

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A Goldilocks Temperature—Just Right — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks Rod for the info on temperatures. We are fortunate to be living on Earth – even if it was -12 degrees here yesterday.

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