Monday, June 16, 2014

Converting Fahrenheit to Celsius

By Bobby Neal Winters
I am still in the process of learning Brazilian Portuguese. When you are learning a new language, numbers are always a problem because they are entities that require the same sort of manipulation that words do and everything gets clogged up.  This happens especially when the numbers you are dealing with are temperatures and you are going to a country where they measure temperature in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.  
There are simple formulas for converting from one to another:
where F is degrees Fahrenheit and C is degrees Celsius.  I say simple. To a mathematician, these are simple because they are linear. Linear is just one level of complication above constant.  The problem is that if you are trying to work with a new language, there is probably too much going on in your head to do this.  And to be frank, there is probably too much even if you are working in your own language because there are fractions.
The simple way to deal with the Celsius scale is to learn it on its own terms.  We will be get with some facts.  In Celsius, 0 is freezing and 38 is body temperature.  Also, 50 degrees Fahrenheit is 10 degrees Celsius; 68 Fahrenheit is 20 degrees Celsius;86 Fahrenheit is 30 Celsius.  Finally, both scales are the same at -40.  
So think about it like this.  At 40 degrees Celsius, you are above body temperature, so it’s pretty hot.  It is a typical summer day in Oklahoma or Kansas or Rio.  Folks from the north or from the coasts, wonder how people live in such weather.  They come to the conclusion they can’t, so whatever lives in it can’t be human.
At 30 degrees, an Okie will say it’s pleasantly warm, and a Californian will complain and, perhaps, pray for death.  At 20 degrees, the girls in Rio will put on light sweaters over their summer dresses; Kansas girls will think they are in paradise; Californians will complain because it’s cold.
At 10 degrees, it’s cool. The girls in Paraguay are wearing every stitch of clothing that they own.  The Californians are filing lawsuits. A Kansan has put on a windbreaker. The folks in Wisconsin are wearing shorts.

Zero degrees is cold.  The Brazilians are experiencing hypothermia, but are hoping in their hearts that they might see snow before they die. The Californians are curled up in little balls, scratching their wills into the frost. The Kansans have on long sleeves under their windbreakers. The guys from Wisconsin are still wearing shorts.