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Baby, it's Hot Outside

The next episode is about HEAT, which in keeping with Project X tradition, is an award winningly vague subject. I’m a mechanical engineer (or a MEC-E’s as we are called at the University of Alberta) and this subject is right up my alley. We MEC-E’s spend a lot of time learning about thermodynamics and heat transfer, and nowhere is the need to understand these concepts more important than in the hot climes.

In the studio we compare how heating up water for a cup of tea is no different than cooling water by pouring liquid nitrogen on it. In both cases, the boiling liquid (either water or nitrogen) stays at the same temperature while it absorbs the energy required to change from a liquid to gas. You might have noticed that boiling water stays at the same temperature.

Manufacturers use similar tricks in refrigerators. A special fluid boils in the cold part of your fridge, then is compressed and condensed in the warm side of your fridge around back. This way heat is sucked out of your cool "bevies" in the fridge, and "pumped" out to your kitchen.

OK, enough technical stuff. We went to Phoenix, Arizona to really feel the pain of hot weather and see first hand how cooling and refrigeration there is no laughing matter. We start by asking some window washers what life is like in the baking sun. In fact, this is a dangerous work, and sadly, one of the fellows we interviewed fell to his death on the job a few months after we were there. Later we go into the building to look at how a huge air conditioning system is a serious design consideration in Arizona buildings.

We also look at some very cool archeological sites and see how early North American cultures learned how to avoid the heat and built their wisdom into their living spaces around them. They were very clever, considering the simple technology available.

Of course, we look like death warmed over dragging our butts around in the punishing sun. It didn’t help that we were also suffering from sleep deprivation as a result of the previous day’s overzealous devotion to the Project X prime directive of discovering the local culture wherever we go. We were relieved to observe that being a local doesn’t make withstanding the heat any easier.

It turns out that the lessons of the early native architecture work today in homes too. A couple we visit in their 'passively' cooled home show us some of the tricks of keeping a cool in a more sustainable way.

Finally, we couldn’t end our portion of the show without Marc proving his superior intellectual wit by shattering my innocent poolside reverie with a cannonball jump into the water. I guess Wilde might have said that in Arizona, "the only thing worse than being soaked, is not being soaked".

Also this week, you’ll see Brian Alters prove, once again, how life on earth solved its own problems through evolution. Then Jenn is back on the treadmill trying to win the “masochist of the year award”. You go girl!


I only the last bit of your program on how to handle heat. I am planning to build a house in a very hot climate (it can reach 50 degrees Celsius). I was hoping to have the contact info of the featured couple so that I can ask them what measures they have taken to handle the heat.
Aqeel Jafri

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