Weather and numbers

On the road home.

This month, the weather has been more or less normal for this time of the year. That is, what was normal for the last 20 years, not last winter, and not the beginning of this. The temperature has some days been above the freezing point, and even the cold nights have barely been below -10 degrees Celsius.

Let me say a few words about temperatures here.  The Celsius scale of temperatures has its zero at the freezing point of freshwater near sea level. Unlike, say, Fahrenheit which has zero at the temperature of a deep freezer or something.  Celsius also has the boiling point of water at 100 degrees. That means we have nice, small numbers for the temperatures that actual humans actually meet in everyday life.  In contrast, the Kelvin scale starts at the point of absolute zero, where not a molecule moves. This may be useful to a few scientists, but utterly irrelevant to the remaining 7 billion people or so.  Sometimes something really is such a stroke of genius that it cannot be improved on even if you desperately want to.

Take for instance the way we measure time, at least on a small scale.  The day and night are together 24 hours, a number that can be divided in a lot of ways but is still nice and small. At the time of the equinoxes, the day and night is each 12 hours, which is also the most divisible number anywhere near its range.  This makes it easy to think in hours. But it does not stop there.

Each hour is made up of 60 minues. This is another super-divisible number, by far the most slicable anywhere near it.  I believe we got this from the Babylonians, who again inherited it from the Sumerians, which is about as far as we can trace that root of our civilization. It is still unrivaled. There have been attempts to introduce a 100-minute hour, but it is just not as practical. Sure, it would be better for arithmetic, but in practice it is more useful to be able to divide the hour into nice chunks.

The seconds? They correspond approximately to the heartbeat of a grown man at rest.  And from there on we have these super-divisible units all the way up to the length of the day.  Some things just can’t be improved on. Or if they can, it takes a genius the likes of which the world does not see every millennium.

The months, on the other hand, need work. It is bad enough that the year is not 360 days, we can blame God for that. I suppose certain other things took priority, like not having the planet overheating.  (To have the same length of day but only 360 days, we would have to circle the sun a little closer.) Now, this I can live with. But the Romans messed things up further by robbing February to add to other months they liked better.  I guess it is a bit late to reverse that?

For instance, we just had 31 days in December, and now we have 31 days in January as well! Is that really necessary? I would be perfectly willing to have 29 days in February if I could get by with only 30 in January.  Well, anyway, as I said, it’s a bit late now. But if we colonize Mars, we should definitely do better.  Of course, Mars does not have a slow moon like ours at all, so the concept of months (originally derived from “moon”) may not apply.

The moon certainly applies here. I have noticed that the weather is almost always clear during the full moon here on Norway’s south coast.  But right now there is barely any moon at all here. Your moon may vary, as may your weather. I read that near the North Pole, the sea is two degrees warmer than it has been for the last 2000 years. (They can measure this by the sediments.) Two degrees Celsius, that is. Of course.

2 thoughts on “Weather and numbers

  1. Well, in my Fahrenheit world, here are the past and projected temps for the past/next few days:
    Sunday – high of 80 degrees
    Monday – high of 71
    Today’s high is to be 30 (with rain, sleet and possibly snow – currently the wind is about a million miles an hour, straight out of the north)
    Tonight’s low is to be 16
    Tomorrow’s high is to be 20
    Tomorrow night’s low is to be 11.

    Texas. Gotta love it, otherwise the weather would drive you insane.

    • You’d think Fahrenheit lived in Alaska, the single-digit temperatures are those you normally find in a deep freezer! Well, I hope you enjoy your stay in winter wonderland as much as I enjoy being out of it!

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