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Fermi Problems, Blower Doors, and the Compressibility of Air

 
Enrico Fermi estimate question problem

Enrico Fermi was famous for many things, as you might expect of one of the smartest physicists of the 20th century. Quantum theory,  statistical mechanics, and nuclear physics were his primary subjects, but what I appreciate most about him was what are called Fermi Problems. He had an amazing ability to come up with estimates for questions for which he had little or no real data.

The James Brown Blower Door Video

 

Did you know that James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," made a video about doing blower door testing to weatherize homes? Neither did most people, but he certainly did make one. Here it is.

US Department of Energy Reveals Net Zero Mass/Energy House

 
net zero mass energy house antimatter

Net zero energy homes, which produce as much energy as they use, are all the rage in the world of green building. Environmentalists and hippies have taken that a step further and proposed net zero water and net zero food homes. Now, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, under orders from their funders at the US Department of Energy to "be more practical and do something useful," have unlocked the secret to using antimatter in building materials. The result is the Net Zero Mass/Energy Home, which could revolutionize the construction industry.

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A Pi Day Physics Lesson on the Induction Cooktop — With Dancing!

 
appliance induction cooktop physics energy efficient indoor air quality

Today is Pi Day, named for that special number, 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288... The three dots at the end mean that I've exhausted my memory of the digits of pi, but pi doesn't care. It just goes on and on. Anyway, Pi Day is a perfect day for a physics lesson because so many physics equations (and solutions) use that special number. And what better physics lesson for Pi Day than one about a device that cooks yummy things for us!

Ice Spikes, Building Science, & Sci-Fi Movies — A Little Friday Fun

 
water ice cube bizarre property

I love bizarre stuff. I love science. When those two come together, it's almost better than ice cream. And speaking of ice, that's what I'm talking about. Wednesday morning, I filled my orange silicone ice cube tray with tap water. When I opened the freezer that evening, I thought maybe I had interrupted something. Take a look at the photo below, and you'll see what I mean.

The Mixed-Up IAQ and Infiltration Blues

 
Eric Werling sings the Mixed-up IAQ and Infiltration Blues

I've been on the road this week. I flew to Chicago on Tuesday and gave two presentations at the Better Buildings: Better Business conference put on by the Energy Center of Wisconsin. After I was done there on Wednesday, I flew to Massachusetts, where I attended the second day of Building Science Corporation's Experts' Session. (Click the link to download the presentations.) Joe Lstiburek spoke the whole day about ventilation. At the end of the day, though, we got a little surprise.

A First Sentence to Rival Gabriel García Márquez's Firing Squad

 

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." Thus opens Gabriel García Márquez's classic work of literature, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It's the most memorable first sentence of any book I've ever read.

A Halloween Homage to Those Things That Live—and Die—in Our Homes

 
dead bird attic halloween nate adams

Whether you live in a single-family detached house, duplex, condo, or apartment, we all have something in common: We share our homes with other animals. They crawl in from below, squeeze in through the sides, or fly in at the top. Sometimes they die within, as did this bird in a Poe-esque attic in Ohio. (Thanks to Nate Adams of Energy Smart Home Performance for this spooky photo!)

Snakes in an Attic — The Ductopus's Cousin Strangles Bath Fans

 
attic bath fan duct snakes 440

Neville poked his head up through the scuttle hole into the attic and surveyed the situation. Troy immediately heard a scream erupt and had to get out of the way as Neville quickly jumped down off the ladder.

My Interview with the Inventor of the Turbo Thermo-Encabulator Max

 
joe lstiburek allison bailes turbo thermo encabulator max video interview

You may not realize that among his many other accomplishments, Dr. Joseph Lstiburek, the well known building scientist and Canadian firebrand, invented the Turbo Thermo-Encabulator Max. He's tried to keep this secret and you won't find anything about it on Building Science Corporation's website. I've known about it for a while, though, and I was perfectly content to keep it a secret...until last week.

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