Monday, April 12, 2010

Missing the Cold?

As spring started showing itself here in the Rockies, I was delving back into winter with Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places by Bill Streever. A very readable scientific romp through topics as varied as meteorology, absolute zero, Artctic and Antarctic expeditions, the Children's Blizzard, hibernation, human and animal adaptations to cold temperatures, and the development of refrigeration, Cold will have you wondering, wanting more, and shivering.

Streever walks us through a year in the cold, starting in July near the Arctic Circle and ending the following June in the same place. Whether you're interested in climate change, hibernation habits (the word "frogsicle" came to mind when reading about how the nearly frozen wood frog spends the winter) or weather prediction, there is something in this book for you. Streever touches on many topics just enough to peak your interest while at the same time giving you an overall look at the many aspects of cold. Building a house in Alaska? Better consider what will happen when the heat from your home starts to melt the ground underneath it. Do you know the difference between hypothermia and frostbite? What are the best fabrics for humans to wear if they want to survive in below freezing temperatures? What does an early bicycle prototype have to do with cold weather? And how did the nation's weather predictors miss what became known as the Children's Blizzard of January 1888, a storm that claimed the lives of at least 250 of the estimated 20,000 people who were surpised by the storm, stumbling, lost, some of them only a few feet from shelter?

This is both an engaging, personal account of cold and a well-researched (and indexed, and cited) book that could lead you in any number of directions for further reading on topics that caputre your interest. What does cold mean to you, personally, and to the world in general? If you don't have answers to these questions now, reading Streever's Cold might get you started on formulating them.

To hear NPR's take on Cold, an interview with Streever and him reading excerpts from the book, click here.

Cross posted at Dwelling in Possibility.

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