The Science of Staying Cool

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Weather forecasts predict temperatures higher than normal for this summer. With public pools closed for the season and limited access to air-conditioned public spaces, keeping cool will be a challenge. (Chinnapong/Big Stock)

Weather forecasts predict temperatures higher than normal for this summer. With public pools closed for the season and limited access to air-conditioned public spaces, keeping cool will be a challenge. (Chinnapong/Big Stock)

Imagine for a moment a world without air conditioners, refrigerators, fans, or even ice. We take them for granted — but keeping cool is a lot more complicated than you might think. As we roll into what’s predicted to be one of the hotter summers in recent memory, The Pulse explores the science of keeping cool. We hear stories about battling heat islands, designing cooler buildings, and cooling down our bodies and our minds.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Irina Zhorov reports on what creates “heat islands” in cities, and how deadly heat waves inspired a new way of cooling houses down.
  • We talk with Ajla Aksamija, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, about how high-performance buildings are starting to replace air conditioning.
  • Most of us think of sweat as a nuisance — but it’s a key part of our bodies’ internal cooling system and essential to our survival. Pulse producer Lindsay Lazarski explains why we sweat, and what happens when you can’t.
  • In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) heat isn’t just a temperature — it’s an indication of health. Reporter Liz Tung investigates the TCM concept of “internal heat,” to find out what it is and how quelling it might help one patient overcome her chronic intestinal problems.
  • Despite ongoing quarantine orders, warmer weather is drawing crowds to beaches and parks. Jodie Guest, a professor of epidemiology at Emory University, explains how to stay safe.
  • Poet, birder and wildlife biologist J. Drew Lanham talks about the importance of green spaces for all, and explains how being in nature is helping him keep his spirits up during this time.

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