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DEGREES, DEGREES, DEGREES

(And not the kind that you receive from a University)

I think that the US should try the Celsius system. This may seem ironic since I recently wrote an article describing my preference for American English spelling. But I think temperature scales and spelling are quite different. Spelling is like an accent. Accents: Fun/quirky/exotic and reflective of heritage, but ultimately not a hindrance in communication. If I spell behavior and you spell behaviour—we would still understand each other perfectly. But if you said it is 250C outside, I (sadly) would still have to rely on Google to determine whether I need a sweater (770F, probably not). But here are a few reasons why I would prefer to use Celsius.

  1. Nearly the entire world uses Celsius! …with a few exceptions: Liberia, Palau, Belize*
  2. Inconvenience of conversions when traveling sans internet (probably not the strongest argument)
  3. It makes sense: 00 C for the freezing point of water and 1000C when water boils, versus 320 F and 2120 F, right?

thermometer Gringer: Wikipedia

The three most popular temperature scales are Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. The last time I used all three was in a General Chemistry course, so I decided to learn a bit about their origins. Fahrenheit was developed by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736). Tragically, Fahrenheit’s parents died from ingesting poisonous mushrooms when Daniel was 15 years old. Fahrenheit moved to Dutch Republic and began pursuits in the natural science. His mercury thermometer and Fahrenheit temperature scale soon became widely utilized in Europe. The Celsius scale—a 1000 scale with the freezing and boiling point of water at either end—was developed by Anders Celsius. Celsius, a Swedish astronomer (1701-1744), was also was the first to connect the Earth’s magnetic field with the spectacular aurora borealis. The Kelvin system is mainly used in research. This system was developed by—you guessed it—a man named Lord Kelvin. William Thomas, Baron Kelvin of Largs (1824-1907) lived in Northern Ireland. In 1848 he wrote On an Absolute Thermometric Scale, which outlined the need for a scale that placed which absolute zero** at zero degrees. In Kelvin’s scale, the unit size between Kelvin and Celsius remained the same. During the 1800s, Europeans slowly adopted the Celsius scale. A switch further established when most countries adopted the metric system in the 1970s. So what do you think? Do you use Celsius or Fahrenheit? Should the world stick with one temperature setting? Submit comments below!

Sources + Additional Information: Encyclopedia Brittanica, Khandelwal and Agarwal’s The Fatal Recipe of Mushroom. SMU Medical Journal, 2014, and “On an Absolute Thermometric Scale” published on http://zapatopi.net/kelvin/papers/on_an_absolute_thermometric_scale.html http://www.livescience.com/39959-celsius.html

*this is according to various maps on Reddit

**absolute zero-the hypothetical temperature in which there is no molecular movement, i.e. really really cold!

By KCBauer

Hello! My name is KCBauer and I am a PhD student at the University of British Columbia. I am a researcher, writer, musician, and explorer. Originally from Washington DC, I graduated with a BA in Music and BS in Biology in 2014. This blog focuses on the gut microbiota, the trillions of microorganisms that reside along the digestive tract. My grad research at UBC examines the role of the gut microbiota on human health, brain development, and anthropology. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy ambling through Vancity, listening to music, reading science journals, and hiking. If you have questions, ideas for blog topics, suggestions for place to visit in BC, or corrections send me an email at KCBauer@msl.ubc.ca.

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