Bare Bones Biology 334 – Cold


Speaking of facts, as we were last week, it’s a fact that it gets cold up here at 7000 feet altitude with one foot on each side of the continental divide. A fact that I need to deal with – I who am made sick by toxic air and combustion fumes.



Which is worse? Spending one’s evenings barfing in the bathroom from toxic fumes of burning gas, oil, coal or the like? Or freezing in the clear cold air of the unheated canyon? Electrical energy was useful in the good old days before they started using toxic paints on the space heaters.


Those are the unfortunate facts. Too many people, too much garbage in the air, water and soil, and all of those things recycle in our Biosystem – over and over and over again, changing form over time, more or less forever. And so the climate changes.


But that’s not what this blog is about. This time we are thinking about our personal survival as real people with physiological needs and limitations.


And I just glanced out the window as I was writing this, on September 24, to the first snow of the season, huge flakes flopping down on yellowing leaves and bending over the tall grasses before melting into the thin ice of our first hard freeze.   Last year I had more than four feet of snow on the roof. Someone said six inches a bit higher up.


160908-nance-asc_6172rlssFacts definitely are facts, and as I mentioned last week, we have basically three choices (minimum) with regard to any fact. First, pretend it isn’t so. This can be lethal. Suicidal I think was the word I used last week. Second, try to change the fact, but of course this cannot work if it is a real fact because facts – the word means the things we cannot change, and there is no way I can change what the weather chooses to do on any given day. Third is to change how we behave – to organize our behaviors to accommodate the facts, and today I want to tell you about the neat little house that one woman made for herself, by herself, of course with a little help from her friends and the community.


It begins with tried and true lessons learned in a community that knows how to live in a hard land. Note the steep angle of the roof that encourages the snow to leave, and the deep overhang to the north that piles the snow in a way that protects the house.


On the south side the house incorporates some more modern technology, a Trombe wall is what particularly interests me today.

“A Trombe wall is a passive solar building design where a wall is built on the winter sun side of a building with a glass external layer and a high heat capacity internal layer separated by a layer of air. Light (energy that is) close to UV in the electromagnetic spectrum passes through the glass almost unhindered, then is absorbed by the wall.”


The wall is made of any substance that absorbs a lot of heat and releases it slowly. So the UV light energy is changed to heat energy when it hits the rock or concrete or whatever the wall is made of. The heat energy cannot escape through the glass as easily as it came in, and so it heats up the wall and then, on the inside of the wall, it heats the house.

Yes, that does sound a lot like the cause of global warming. The physics is the same fact in both cases. Reminding us again that we can’t change the facts — it is how we use the known facts that makes all the difference to our survival.

The small roof overhanging the Trombe wall is designed so that the sun in winter hits the heat absorbing south wall of the house, but the wall is shaded from the summer sun to prevent overheating.


160908-nance-asc_6190rlssAdditionally of course, the modern tech touch includes a solar panel that provides electricity all year round. Solar is not very useful for heating or for cooking, because the gadgets used for those things need to plug in to a high energy source, so the wood stove makes up any unmet energy needs.


Some pictures are on the blog post. We only have about 600 words here, so if you have specific questions, you can leave them here.


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