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Measurement of Coolth

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When winter approaches we talk of the weather getting cooler, or in more extreme cases, colder, a form of words that implies something (cold or coolth) is increasing. On a mild day in early spring we say it is less cold than it was, or perhaps less cool. However, as soon as we start trying to put numbers in to say by how much, say, it has become cooler, we use a set of figures that imply more is less. The higher number indicates less cool, the lower number means more cold.

This seems to me to be both illogical and inconvenient. I believe we need a means of measuring cold or coolth in such a way that zero means we don't feel anything significant, just comfortable, when sitting for long periods, whether dressed formally, casually or even not at all. This measure should then increase as it gets colder, and become steadily more negative when it becomes noticeably warm.

This new measure needs both a name and a single letter symbol to signify it (just as C represents Centigrade or Celsius and F represents Farenheit). The obvious word to use is Coolth. We cannot follow precedent and use the initial letter to represent it, because C is already in use for a rival system. I suppose the name could follow precedent by taking the name of the inventor, but this does not solve the problem because I invented it and F has also already been taken. We could use my first name (I'm normally called Jim), but students already have enough difficulty in distinguishing between the meanings of the words heat and temperature without our making matters worse for them by using J for both Coolth and Joules. In any case, I am not that egocentric. I propose therefore that we take the last letter of the word Coolth, and talk about degrees H. We could even say that it stands for heatlessness.

Having established a name and a symbol, we have still to determine the actual numbers. The zero, as already mentioned, should be at that point where we could normally sit around without feeling either warm or cool, and would not even think about the subject. In Britain there is a legal requirement for offices and shops to be maintained at a minimum temperature of 16C, but anyone who has sat for long at a desk in those conditions will agree that we need our zero point to be a little less cool than that. I propose that our zero point should correspond to 68F or 20C, which is comfortable and makes for easy conversion from both other systems.

We now need to fix one other point so as to determine the complete scale, and I suggest we follow precedent by using the freezing point of water, which is 32F and 0C. Since it is generally regarded as desirable to use a decimal scale, it follows that the freezing point of water should be either 10H, 100H or even 1000H. The object of our new system is to be practical, so I suggest we set the scale so that a change of 1H is just noticeable without the need for a thermometer. Making the freezing point of water 10H will achieve this just nicely, and again makes for easy conversions, since a change of 1H is the same as a change of -2C.

The practicality of the system is shown immediately we consider the reaction of the human body to equivalent positive and negative coolths. 10H, or the freezing point of water, is such that the human skin will find it slightly uncomfortable but not seriously harmful, at least in the short term. -10H, which is the same as 30C or 86F is again just slightly uncomfortable (a hot summer day in Britain), but not harmful. On the other hand, -40H, which is the boiling point of water, is immediately harmful and damaging, as is 40H (-70C) which would cause more or less immediate frostbite.

Whereas now freezing weather is often described as, say, 10 degrees of frost (leaving it ambiguous as to whether this means -10C or 22F), we will now say, in the former case, we have 20 degrees of coolth (20H). Much simpler and easier to understand, and quite unambiguous.

Anyone for a swim in the lake to cool off? It's minus 8 degrees out there!

Copyright © E.J. Fisher 2002


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