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How To Stay Cool When It's Hot As $#*! Outside

Summer is *almost* here and it's already getting crazy hot and humid. For some reason, I tend to gravitate toward VERY hot places, and happen to go there during the hottest time of year. The most extreme example was heading to the Sahara in August!

I learned a lot from the cultures who have thrived for thousands of years in those insanely hot places, and now I'm sharing what I've learned.

First Some Science!

A crucial part of staying cool is understanding how heat
is transferred and how our bodies self-regulate. I want you to imagine that you are a little campfire. Why? Your body creates heat. What we have to do in summer and winter is figure out how to either hold onto that heat (in winter) or get rid of it (in summer). Imagine you're in a cabin with a nice little fire in a small fireplace. It's snowing outside. Do you want the cabin to be small or big? A little fire can warm a little cabin, but not a big one, so in winter we need a small cabin. Now let's imagine it's a hot summer day, and we've got that fire going. Now, we want our cabin to be big, and maybe we'll open a few windows and turn the fans on to try to let that heat out. Remember, putting out the fire means we are no longer alive, so all we can do is adjust the size of the room. This blog post is how to accomplish that.

Heat moves in 4 ways:
  • Conduction: The process by which heat or electricity is directly transmitted through a substance when there is a difference of temperature between adjoining regions, without movement of the material.
    AKA: touch cold things, don't touch hot things
  • Convection: the transfer of heat by the circulation or movement of the heated parts of a liquid or gas
    AKA use wind and water to take heat away from your body.
  • Radiation: the complete process in which energy is emitted by one body, transmitted through an intervening medium or space, and absorbed by another body.
    AKA: heat from the sun, body heat. Stand close to cool objects, stand far away from hot objects or put a barrier between you and the hot object. 
  • Evaporation: water molecules heat up until they have enough energy to transform from liquid into gas- effectively 'transferring' that heat into the surrounding atmosphere
How do we use the science of heat to help us stay cool?
We'll utilize conduction to transfer heat out by touching cold things- like ice and shaded rocks. When I was in Morocco, I would find a cold tile floor in the bottom of a building and lay on it- letting it suck away my body heat.  We'll prevent conduction by not touching hot things like sun baked black cars.We'll use convection to transfer heat out by swimming in cool water and standing in front of moving air.
We'll help our bodies radiate body heat by wearing thin, loose fitting, minimal clothing. We'll prevent our bodies from absorbing radiant heat by getting out of the sun and staying away from objects that radiate stored heat (like concrete buildings and black top parking lots)

The Science of Sweat
When it's hot, we sweat. Our bodies push a combination of water, salt and minerals out our sweat glands an onto our skin. When those molecules get enough heat energy from our skin, they evaporate, effectively 'taking' that heat with them. This process is not 100% efficient, and is very dependent on the humidity of the environment. In a hot and humid environment, like a jungle, sweat just doesn't work very well to cool us off, and instead we end up with soaking wet clothing. This is why it's so important to wear fabrics that help that water evaporate as much as possible- which I'll get into later.