In this insightful episode of 'Short Stuff', hosts Josh Clark, Chuck Bryant, along with Jerry Rowland and Dave C, explore the curious divide between the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature scales, and why different scales prevail in different regions.
The hosts begin by acknowledging a concern from their regular listeners; the frequent requests for conversions from Fahrenheit to Celsius in their podcast. Based on these requests, it’s clear that many international listeners struggle with the American penchant for Fahrenheit, with the United States being one of the few places globally that still uses the Fahrenheit scale.
A fascinating bit of trivia introduced during the discussions recounts the life of Finnish soldier Simo Haya, famously known as 'the white death' during World War II. Haya's courage in functioning as a sniper in weather as frosty as -40 degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius serves as a stepping stone for a defining moment in temperature scales. Here, -40 is considered distinctive because it represents the exact point at which Fahrenheit and Celsius intersect.
Further shedding light on this, the hosts unravel the mystery behind the lapping of Celsius over Fahrenheit at -40. The hosts elucidate this by explaining how each Celsius degree is 1.8 times larger than a degree in Fahrenheit, and how the same temperature range is compressed into a smaller scale in Celsius compared to Fahrenheit.
In order to help listeners understand more about these scales, the hosts delve into the different freezing and boiling points inherent to both. In practical terms, water freezes at 32 degrees in Fahrenheit and boils at 212 degrees, whereas in Celsius, water freezes at 0 and boils at 100.
Aiming to equip listeners with the practicality of temperature conversion, they share a simple formula for converting Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa. For Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion, one needs to multiply the Celsius temperature by 1.8 and add 32. Conversely, to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, one subtracts 32 from the Fahrenheit temperature and then divides it by 1.8.
Finally, the hosts dive into the historical reasons and preferences deciding why the United States and a few other places (the Bahamas, Belize, Cayman Islands, and Palau) still use Fahrenheit, while the rest of the world employs Celsius. Interestingly, despite broadcasting weather information in Fahrenheit for American audiences, the U.S National Weather Service reportedly relies on Celsius internally. This podcast episode is a necessary listen for those intrigued by the quirks of temperature scales and the stories behind them.