Laws of physics verified by a balloon thermometer

“Hey, What’s goin on out there?”  …. That is a question adults were frequently asking me when I was a child …. And  …  when I was a youth …. And   ….  when I was middle aged  …. And …. Well you get the idea …. So  ….  I have always wondered …. “what’s goin on out there?

In the past I have had several different outdoor thermometers.

Some were outside the window so I could look out and see … I had one with several probes … I could put them different places … they broadcast the signal to a device inside …. It worked but wasn’t very user friendly … not like just looking out the window at a big thermometer ….

One day I went to an actual store and I bought a big one … a big round plastic one … it was wonderful to behold …. The problem was that it wasn’t very accurate …. Even worse it’s inaccuracy wasn’t repeatable  … so you couldn’t look at it and compute the offset in your head and know the real temperature …. The most accurate one I ever had was the red alcohol in a glass tube variety …. It’s problem was that it was hard to see ….  I had to look from the proper angle to see it …. Sometimes I had to find the proper optical instruments …. So it was far from satisfactory …. For a while I had two …. The big variable offset one that I could look at to see if it was cold or hot … and ….  the accurate, red alcohol one that I couldn’t see without uncomfortable contortions ….. if I was outside, sometimes I would adjust the variable one with a little jab or a whack  ….the whack changed the reading quickly …. The thermometer wasn’t any more accurate, but it knew I was displeased with it  ….  I was very careful with the red alcohol filled glass one …   but one day the elements won and it succumbed to natural selection  ….

Why didn’t I just go on line and see what the temperature was?  …  that’s what the city people do …. All those online places lie worse than a politician …. My experience is that they are usually within about 5 degrees on the top end but on the low end they are often ten degrees high sometimes 12 or 13 …. That’s not much good when you don’t want stuff to freeze …. So I look at the predictions ….  If the weather site is predicting a low of 43 degrees or above I generally don’t cover stuff … stuff, being sensitive plants or water based experiments   … if the website is predicting 43 degrees or less I consider all the other factors then go out and cover stuff anyway ….

That was all important and relevant background information …. Now on to the real story

Last summer I was at a garage sale  ….  I saw stuff I was interested in  …. Some garage sales have nothing interesting … just knickknacks  and other girl stuff … I should say that free knickknacks make good rifle targets  …. Usually the folks who have knickknacks have some sort of emotional attachments to the targets and are not offering them free to a good home  ….

My garage sale method is to see stuff …. Then decide what I would pay for it ….  Then I offer them what I am willing to pay ….. often they will say ok …. Sometimes they counter with a lower price  …. I usually accept …. Sometimes they counter with a super inflated price ….. I say nope and assure them that some other person might be willing to pay that much ….

Last summer I was at a garage sale that featured a large round plastic outdoor thermometer …. My previous wonderful experience with a large round plastic outdoor thermometer had a devaluating effect on the possible purchase price of this item …. The fact that I currently had no thermometer outside my window caused some wishful thinking …. Well it might work  sort of …. and … well it might be better than nothing … so I believe I offered a quarter  … and I believe  the poor deranged lady said  you can have that free ….. I quickly calculated the disposal costs of the item and decided it was a fair price

Weeks after said thermometer’s arrival at the iksperimentalist estate the weather changed …. They call it fall … in my estimation fall is the best season of the year …. If there is a fallen season it is winter …. Winter provides much less light and truth than the other seasons ….

As the days started to get colder I decided I should test  the garage sale  “give away” thermometer ….  I put it in several different locations with a trusted thermometer and compared  … out in the shade ….  in the sun …. In the freezer … I was amazed …. It was very close to the real temperature in all of the temperature extremes that I tried …. How could this be  … such accuracy for such a low price  …. I hung it up outside the bathroom window and began to enjoy it’s smiling face ….  That is except for the balloon  …. You see the designers of this wondrous machine had placed images of hot air balloons right on the face of this big round plastic outdoor thermometer ….. two of the balloon images were innocuous   … but ….  the biggest one obscured the marks from -12° to 20°   ….  I guess this was intended to be marketed in San Diego or the Caribbean where it never gets down to 20 degrees ….   No wonder it was free …. Who needs a thermometer in the Caribbean ….. I have never had a  tomato plant freeze in the Caribbean …. Ok ….  I have never been to the Caribbean …. If I did go to the Caribbean,  I wouldn’t take any tomato plants …..




As the fallen season of winter arrived I learned to be able to make good approximations of the temperatures below 20° … if it was about a half of a balloon below 20 … that would be about 5 degrees … it’s easy

…. A few days ago it was warm enough to rain  … it rained all day  … then it  snowed …  then it froze  … hard … it was probably near zero …. I looked at my wonderful hot air balloon thermometer  … it read exactly 32 degrees  …. Day or night  …. It never varied …. Always 32 degrees … that would be zero degrees centigrade for you people from retrograde centigrade cultures …. For you unscientific types that is the freezing point of water …. What a wonderful proof of the laws of physics …. The rain had penetrated the thermometers mechanism …. When the temperature got down to 32 degrees the water in the mechanism froze and it stopped short never to go again till the old man brought it inside to thaw and dry ….  I guess I will build a rain deflecting devise before I put it back outside ….






I hope this traumatic, mechanism freezing experience  didn’t de-accurafy the thermometer.

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