Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Learning from each other, coexisting peacefully, sharing results is encouraged by science.

Even though we had a warm summer that extended well into fall, we'll be soon be missing the days of sun and 70 degrees.

That's 70 degrees Fahrenheit, not Celsius. 70 degrees Celsius would be over 150 degrees Fahrenheit and Death Valley has never gone over 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes it's hard to keep it all straight.

In 1603, Galileo Galilei used a sealed glass bubble in a vertical tube of liquid to record data about temperature. On the hottest days, the sealed glass bubble would sink to the bottom, and when the temperature cooled off at night the glass bubble would rise back to the top. This was not considered a miracle by Galileo, a scientist. But the data collected led to many glass bubbles that would rise and fall at different temperatures. No system of degrees or measurements was ever connected to this temperature change detection device.

Ole Roemer was a scientist some 100 years later (1701) who reconfigured the "thermometer" when the vertical glass tube was enclosed. Roemer's best thermometer could survive the coldest winter weather in Denmark as well as the temperature of boiling water. Other thermometers broke, but over time, Roemer was ready to promote a thermometer ranging from 0°R up to and past 60°R. Roemer felt that this system was special because the freezing point of plain water was 7.5°R which appeared to be exactly one-eighth of the way up the scale. Still not a miracle, but not as random as it might have been.

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit visited Roemer and "borrowed" the concept, the science, the use of degrees and developed the Fahrenheit scale (1724) with thinner glass tubes so that more divisions could be used and there would be less need for decimals and half degrees. Fahrenheit also set 0° below the freezing point of water (which would later adjust to 32 degrees) — but now he had the boiling point at 212°F. Fahrenheit's instrument was probably larger and more fragile than Roemer's, but we all know how popular his scale would become.

Joseph-Nicolas Delisle in France (1732), used mercury in an enclosed tube. Mercury is not easy to work with, and undoubtedly there were many thermometers that exploded before Delisle had a successful design that could register a temperature equal to boiling water. Delisle labelled the boiling point as 0 degrees and labelled over 225 equal units going down. Delisle's system used higher numbers for colder temperatures (Reactions with magnesium chloride hexahydrate can achieve temperatures as low as -130°F!). Delisle did not mind that his scale went up with lower temperatures; perhaps he hoped for the same fortune as Columbus.

Anders Celsius, in 1742, took a hard look at Delisle's science. Celsius didn't disagree with zero degrees boiling and higher numbers for lower temperatures. Celsius did disagree with 150 degrees between boiling and freezing. By changing to 100 steps between boiling and freezing, Celsius created a system often called Centigrade, meaning "one hundred steps." One gram of water, which is 1 cubic centimeter of water, or 1 milliliter, will increase 1°C given 1 calorie of heat.  Celsius was sure it was a better system than the others. The day after Celsius died, Jean-Pierre Christin reversed the Celsius scale so 0 degrees became the freezing point of water and 100 degrees became the boiling point.

William Thomson, or 1st Baron Kelvin, would come along in 1848 adjust the Christin-adjusted Celsius scale so that it extended all the way to absolute zero (the coldest possible temperature).  The Kelvin scale removes the possibility of a negative temperature, while retaining 100 steps between freezing and boiling, now 273°K and 373°K respectively.

If this were not science, fundamentalist Galileans would resent reformist Kelvins and Orthodox Fahrenheits would mock their Delisler neighbors as infidels and terrorists. Learning from each other, coexisting peacefully, sharing results and questioning the universe is fair play and encouraged by science.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I find inspiration in science, history, religion, math and art. Look deeper into the world around you, and you will find that there is no single source of inspiration that deserves to reign supreme over the others.

David LaDuca, Community Soapbox

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