Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, December 27, 2020

How do you live in a house without a furnace? You build it according to “passive house” standards, which essentially means it’s hermetically sealed to minimize and manage air-temperature exchange with the outside.

Sounds suffocating, but it’s not:

Inside, a passive home does have a slightly different gestalt from conventional houses, just as an electric car drives differently from its gas-using cousin. There is a kind of spaceship-like uniformity of air and temperature. The air from outside all goes through HEPA filters before entering the rooms. The cement floor of the basement isn’t cold. The walls and the air are basically the same temperature.

Look closer and there are technical differences: When the windows are swung open, you see their layers of glass and gas, as well as the elaborate seals around the edges. A small, grated duct near the ceiling in the living room brings in clean air. In the basement there is no furnace, but instead what looks like a giant Styrofoam cooler, containing the heat exchanger.

Sounds like a family-sized biosphere. It might be too tightly-contained to fly with American homeowners.

But then again, most of us go through an average day hopping from one climate-controlled cocoon to another (home, car, office, mall, etc.). So why not max out the efficiency at home?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/27/2008 03:04pm
Category: Science, Society
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You wouldn’t think Saddam Hussein’s lasting legacy would be in linguistics. But I’ll argue that it is, simply because he famously delivered a common Arabic qualifying phrase to the English-speaking world:

In 1991 Saddam Hussein conquered Kuwait and postured with threats to deliver the “Mother of All Battles”. Mother of all Battles [Umm Al-Ma'arik / Um El-Ma'arek] — the Arabic “mother of” is a figure of speech for “major” or “best”. The original “Mother of All Battles” was the Battle of Qadisiya [Battle of al-Qadisiyya] in 637 CE, in which Islamic Arabs defeated the Persians. Saddam Hussein’s “Mother of All Battles” turned into, among other things, the “Mother of All Retreats”, the “Mother of All Blowouts”, “the mother of all Marine operations”, 650-slide “mother of all briefings”, and so forth.

Using “mother of all” isn’t as widespread in everyday usage as it was in the early ’90s, when Hussein’s proclamation was freshly ripped from the headlines. But it still lurks in the wider lexicon of expressions, and that wouldn’t be the case if the late Iraqi strongman hadn’t used it first.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/27/2008 02:31pm
Category: History, Politics, Wordsmithing
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