These Days it Feels like the 9th Circle.

Dante had it right.  Hell is a flaming pit of darkness and sadness, but when you get down to where it really begins to suck, it freezes over.  The cold of Winter begins to hit and we all make for the nearest heated shrine to pay homage to the thermoelectric gods who provide us with our warmth.  The favorite comment at the bus stop when breath can be seen usually ends up being, “boy, it’s cold out today.”, but is it really?  As a dose of perspective if you ever feel chilly…

If your morning defrosting still seems like a struggle, just remember the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.  November, 1950, -25 degree temperatures impeded the troop retreat away from advancing Chinese and Korean forces.  It was so cold that the rations the soldiers had froze.  Miscommunications with the command ended in troops being sent boxes of tootsie rolls instead of ammunition or rations.  Troops quickly found that the odd little chocolate roll was an ideal food when you were unable to start a fire, and they would stuff their pockets with the tootsie rolls to slowly eat as they thawed (troops remember it taking 20 minutes to eat a tootsie roll because they were so cold).  “Ask any man who served at the Chosin, to be good a tootsie roll must be frozen”

Another famous popsickle of history, Otzi the Iceman famously found dead in the Alps in 1991, expired in a -6 Celsius zone somewhere in the realm of 5,000 years ago.  His unfortunate death in the mountains allowed an uncanny preservation of his corpse because of limited decomposition.  Scientists are still able to say with relative certainty that Otzi was 46, died shortly after eating ibex and venison and had Brown eyes.  His eyes literally froze in good enough condition that we can tell what color they are five millennia later, along with his stomach and whatever parasites he had (whipworm and lyme disease).

If you ever wished to see if you could freeze your eyes inside the sockets whilst still alive, the place to have tested it would have been in Antarctica on August 20, 2010, when it reached -135.8 Fahrenheit or -94.7 Celsius.  To put things in perspective, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Alaska, the place where they still use Sled dogs with surprising frequency, was -80 Fahrenheit.  We’re talking Antarctica was a full 170% colder than Alaska or even the coldest day in the Yukon.

And in the bigger picture, the Antarctic is barely chilly.  The assumed temperature of space is around 3 degrees Kelvin.  That’s somewhere in the ballpark of -270 Celsius, or in layman terms, so cold you’d willingly set fire to yourself on the off chance of feeling warmth again.  The reason it is not colder is because background radiation from the Big Bang is omnipresent and 3 Kelvin, for reasons I’m sure science can answer.  More than that, scientists have been able to reach 0.0000000001 Kelvin in a piece of Rhodium metal in a laboratory.  The popular description to explain just how big this is: “imagine the distance from 0 Kelvin and 273 Kelvin is the distance from New York to Seattle.  We have come within a pencil’s lead of distance to Seattle.”  i.e. really really cold.

We like to think that we rough it in the snow when the Winter hits, but when you consider the facts of the matter, none of us really know what cold is.
Hopefully y’all learned something new, something cool or something different.  Stay warm!

Citations, cuz I don’t know the science well enough to not use them:

Even Hell freezes over
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante’s_Satan

Frozen Chosin
http://www.defense.gov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=45657
http://www.tootsie.com/gal_koreanletter.php

Frozen Eyeballs and Otzi
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/questions/question/1625/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2108324/DNA-scans-reveal-5-300-year-old-mummified-Iceman-brown-eyes-relatives-Sardinia–suffered-Lyme-disease.html

Rilly, Rilly, Chilly places
http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/The-Coldest-Temperature-Ever-Recorded-On-Earth-5051157.php
http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/980301b.html
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/weather/wcstates.htm
http://ltl.tkk.fi/wiki/LTL/World_record_in_low_temperatures

(additional) Turns out Frostnip and Chilblain are also things…
http://www.medicinenet.com/frostbite/article.htm

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