Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Temperature Control

When we say "temperature control," we can come at it from angles like clothes, heating and cooling, architecture, etc. Even seat warmers in cars can count!

We started out talking about homes around the world. Traditional Japanese houses, Kat observed, were designed around surviving the heat. They were raised off the ground, with paper walls to increase air circulation. They were not, however, designed to stay warm. This is why the system of hot bath at bedtime+futon with insulation came to be, and why they have things like heated tables. There is a strong belief in keeping your belly warm. In California, insulation is the answer to heat. There is, for example, the history of adobe as a building material. We noted that in California, the cold is generally not life-threatening if you have some form of shelter.

In snowy places, homes need to be very warm to warm you up after you come in.

Accommodations to temperature don't always make efficient sense. Often, business air conditioning is kept overly cool so that male employees can wear three-piece suits.

You should always consider climate when worldbuilding. It's also a really good idea to think through how people build homes to control temperature, and how people dress.

In Israel, Kat mentioned you often see haridi dressed "like 19th century cossacks or Polish nobility," uncompromising to the heat. The pressure of cultural rules of dress must not be discounted. Cliff noted that in India under the occupation of the British Empire, the heavy clothes of colonizers were considered to be a sign of "civilization" rather than "going native."

People make constant adjustments of clothes and technology. Kat remarked that if you work in a bank, you can't wear beach clothes even if it's hot.

Cliff pointed out that in science fiction, the moment when someone takes off their space suit or breathing device is a really important one, and can be used to symbolize "going native." Cold and heat are extreme in space, and a space suit must be designed to handle that.

Kat brought up the architecture of midwest Victorians, which have high ceilings and windows designed to deal with heat. Ceiling fans are a big help. Newer buildings designed with air conditioning tend to have lower ceilings.

People in Great Britain, where atmospheric heat is harder to come by, don't tend to put ice in their drinks. This may have arisen as a technique to maintain internal body temperature.

Whenever you transplant architecture from one climate to another, you may wind up with "silly" architecture, which doesn't match the surroundings. This can happen with invaders.

Using temperature control for food preservation is relatively new, historically. It depends on your location. Using ice from the surrounding environment, or using cool underground springs, are some of the earliest techniques used for food preservation by temperature. Are these available in the location you are describing? At the moment, our own main chosen technology is cold storage, while canning and pickling have become old-fashioned.

Wool clothes against winter cold have to have their own form of special storage. Culture can change things like the fur coat industry. On some level, high-tech materials can't substitute for fur against the cold. Kat called it "putting Luke inside the tauntaun."

"Space blankets" can be super warm.

You can buy heating or cooling gel warmers for your hands. In the olden days, you might have carried a hot potato in your pocket. There were also warming pans for beds, which the servants might run underneath the sheets. Pets also make good bed-warmers!

Hypocausts, or heated floors, were used in Roman times. Hot spring water has definitely been adapted by many cultures for temperature control. You also have the sauna/banya concept with the cold plunge...

People have a lot of beliefs about temperature depending on which climate they grew up in. What is normal? Summer fires? Winter snow? What temperature would surprise you in your environment?

What is the proper temperature for a bath? Scalding? Tepid? It will depend on where you are.

Can you adjust to the ambient climate temperature over time? To what degree? Is it possible to "perform a season" culturally without having the temperature match, as when Californians perform winter?

Humidity makes a huge difference in what temperatures are bearable.

Could you get claustrophobia from being trapped in an air conditioned environment?

Would you wear a hat with a fan, or is that too "dorky"? Would you carry a fan? What about a towel to mop your face?

What temperature are your drinks? Some people in hot places will insist that iced drinks are bad for you.

What temperature does your food arrive at the table at? Should it be piping hot? Should it be iced? Somewhere in between?

Michael Moorcock, Ursula LeGuin, and Ann Leckie all mention circumstances in which people accustomed to extreme cold strip off insulating clothes at temperatures we would consider cold!

Are there swimming pools and ice cream shops? Are there tubes or tunnels between buildings for wintertime?

How conscious are people of the outside temperature? How does one's body configuration affect one's sensitivity to hot or cold weather? How does heat or cold influence one's expectations for things like how easy shoveling is going to be (is hard shoveling a winter or summer thing)?

Where colonizers choose to settle may have a lot to do with the cultural value placed on a particular range of living temperatures. In Hawaii, native peoples tended to live in the mountains...and colonizers wanted to be on the beach.

Thank you to everyone who attended. Today, Dive into Worldbuilding meets at 4pm and we'll be talking with guest author Marion Deeds. I hope you can join us!


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