Storm Emma, a massive weather system that brought bitter cold and snow to the U.K. this past week did a lot of damage to power grids, forced the closure of schools and caused havoc for anyone looking to travel anywhere in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (the Republic of Ireland took its share of knocks, too.) Perhaps worst of all, was the destructive effect the drastic drop in temperature had on sea life in the water surrounding the United Kingdom. This YouTube video shot at Ramsgate Beach in Kent, illustrates what a change in temperature can do to a delicate species of animal--if this isn't a prime example of why climate change is such an important issue, I don't know what is. Read the rest
With winter officially here, it’s time to revisit the unique practice that is “Chicago dibs.” Read the rest
The gentleman in this video claims to hit 30 mph while sledding down Birmingham's Crestwood Boulevard. I have no idea whether or not this is true, but knowing the intersection he's sledding past (I used to live right near there), it would certainly be a hell of a ride down a long stretch of steady grade. Other context that makes this video more fun: Crestwood is (as the "boulevard" implies) a multi-lane, divided small highway that's usually filled with cars going 55 mph in a 40 mph zone. The fact that this man is not hit by a car is a testament to how much the city has been shut down by the recent snow and ice.
Oh, and, finally, all those people going "wooo!" as he passes are standing outside of the neighborhood bar. Natch.
For the first time since 2009, the coastline of Lake Superior has frozen hard enough that people can venture out onto the ice and into the sea caves that line the shore near Wisconsin's Apostle Islands. Like the Lake, itself, the sea caves are frozen and covered with sparkling icicles — from dainty needles to thick, massive stalactites.
These are different caves from the ones I went through in a dinghy in the summer a couple of years ago. Those caves were at Devil's Island, about 6 miles from the mainland. The caves you can see in this, and several other videos taken by YouTuber Shannon Kowalski, are right up along the mainland shore, at the base of some steep sandstone cliffs. The cliffs themselves are the remains of a sandy river basin and chains of shallow ponds that dotted the landscape here a billion (yes, with a "b") years ago. The caves are much more recent, forming as waves from Lake Superior slowly erode holes in the sandstone. Read the rest
In Minneapolis, an estimated 4000 people ride their bikes as part of a daily commute — year round. (The number doubles for the non-winter months.) At the Pedal Minnesota blog, you can see some of their happy faces. Or, anyway, happy eyes. The rest of their faces tend to be hidden under balaclavas. Like you do. Read the rest
Redditor Unspeakablefilth lives in northern Ontario, where December was plenty cold (daytime highs of -25C!). He made the best of an icy situation by freezing blocks of coloured ice in shifts, a new batch every 12 hours, ending up with hundreds of them, which he used to piece together a gorgeous ice-fortress that he opened up to his neighbours. The Imgur set does a great job of showing off the build process and the ensuing enjoyment.
Back in September, the city of Milwaukee announced that it would be spreading cheese brine on its streets this winter in a pilot program to see whether the salty liquid could reduce the amount of rock salt necessary to de-ice roads. Now, it looks like the plan is working out well. In fact, there's not even a smell to the streets. Read the rest
Temperature is just a measure of jigglyness, says Henry Reich of Minute Physics. Not in the "I don't think you're ready for this jelly" sense, but at the scale of atoms. And it's this jiggle that can help explain why two things that are, technically, the exact same temperature can feel totally different when we touch them. Great science for a cold day! Read the rest
This happened in my friend's henhouse this morning.
My friend Kate Hastings, who took this photo, thinks this egg froze because the hen cracked it slightly. But it also looks like the kind of expansion cracking that you can get when eggs freeze and burst their own shells. When the water in the egg white and yolk freezes, it forms a crystalline structure — and that structure isn't very tightly packed. There's lots of space between the molecules, which means that solid ice takes up more space than the liquid it replaced. If the egg freezes solid enough, it's got nowhere left to expand except outside the shell.
Eggshells, as it turns out, are not a great insulator from the cold. Chicken butts are, but chickens also don't always sit on their eggs consistently enough to keep those eggs from freezing.
One side note: You can actually thaw and eat frozen eggs. But you shouldn't thaw and eat an egg like this. That's because the shell is actually a pretty good barrier against bacteria. If a fresh egg — the kind sitting under a hen — has cracked, there's a higher likelihood of bacterial infiltration.
Thanks to Kate and Grampaw!
Up north — in Canada and other places where snowy winters are reliable (and reliably heavy) — you find more animals whose fur comes in various shades of white. This is true even for species that are brown or black further south. The difference is obvious. But how does it happen? Carl Zimmer presents two possible paths to paleness — random mutation, and fortuitous cross-species mating. In related news: Golden retrievers are probably getting it on with Canadian coyotes. Read the rest
They're the mullet of cold-protective clothing. Half glove, half mitten — really, fingerless gloves with a handy mitten flip-top.
They are also fantastic.
Now, partly, this is a matter of personal opinion. But partly, it's just good science.
Before you spend your weekend outdoors, or take your next chilly commute, let's talk briefly about glittens — and the science that makes them superior hand covering. Read the rest