Carrier and mega cities

In 1902, Willis Carrier was hired to remove humidity from a printer. He noticed that his invention not just removed humidity but also cooled the air. Everyone seemed to want to eat near his machine! Thus, Carrier air conditioners was born.

He debuted his air conditioner in a Manhattan theatre during Memorial Day weekend – an oppressive place in the heat. But, as the AC effect began to take over, all the furious hands waving fans dropped and everyone enjoyed the movie. Thanks to Carrier, the concept of a “summer blockbuster” was born.

It took until the 1940s before air conditioner sizes became miniature enough to fit in a window (original machines were larger than that of a truck). This impacted human settlement like no other invention – hot places like Florida now became bearable. Similarly, new mega cities – previously exclusively in temperate climates (New York, London, Paris) – came from tropical climates. Singapore, for example, is new age mega city made possible by the AC.

Artificial cold also led to developments in technology around artificial insemination and eggs storage. Cold, thus, changed human reproduction patterns along with settlement patterns.

Ice seems at first glance like a trivial advance: a luxury item, not a necessity. Yet over the past two centuries its impact has been staggering, when you look at it from the long zoom perspective: from the
transformed landscape of the Great Plains; to the new lives and lifestyles brought into being via frozen embryos; all the way to vast cities blooming in the desert. – Steven Johnson


Source and thanks to: How we got to now by Steven Johnson (This story of “Cold” is continued from parts 1 and 2)


This story and quote is part of “The 200 words project.” I aim to synthesize a story from a book (and, occasionally a blog or article) I’ve read within 200 words consecutive Sundays for around 45 weeks of the year.

Dr Gorrie and Flash Freezing

Dr John Gorrie in Florida began using ice in his hospital to treat his fever patients. But, when a shipment of ice from New England was delayed due to hurricanes, he was forced to figure out ways to create artificial ice.

Around this time, breakthroughs in thermodynamics meant that scientists and experimenters had discovered that a vacuum had a lower temperature. And, changes in air pressure could result in cooling. Thus, Dr Gorrie created his cooling machine. However, he died penniless because the Tudor Company (the incumbent) attacked him with a smear campaign that implicated that the new refrigeration method resulted in bacteria.

Despite this setback, the time was ripe for innovation and innovators around the world began creating refrigeration systems. A French innovator, Ferdinand Carre, then created a boxed refrigerator which was used extensively in the southern US states. Soon, innovators kept improving these refrigerators till they became commonplace.

A big breakthrough followed – experimentalist Clarence Birdseye learnt an ice fishing technique from an Inuit in Canada and noticed that fish that froze really quick retained their flavor. This “flash freezing” technique became the basis of his innovations at the New York fisheries and created today’s frozen foods industry.

 

Inventions and scientific discoveries tend to come in clusters, where a handful of geographically dispersed investigators stumble independently onto the very same discovery. The isolated genius coming up with an idea that no one else could even dream of is actually the exception, not the rule. Most discoveries become imaginable at a very specific moment in history, after which point multiple people start to imagine them.  – Steven Johnson, on refrigeration


Source and thanks to: How we got to now by Steven Johnson

(This story and quote is part of “The 200 words project.” I aim to synthesize a story from a book (and, occasionally a blog or article) I’ve read within 200 words consecutive Sundays for around 45 weeks of the year.)

Frederic Tudor and Ice

Frederic Tudor, a young man from a rich family in Boston, once visited the Carribean (estd year – 1800). He was then seized by an idea – how about shipping New England ice to the Carribean?

After many attempts of shipping ice over and gradually overcoming challenges of transportation and storage (blocks of ice melt slowly so it was possible to move them even without too many innovations), he slowly began to stir up some demand. People in the Caribbean began developing an appetite for iced drinks. While Tudor nearly went bankrupt through the process, his fortunes changed by the end and he ended up a multi-millionaire.

But, this started a unique shift as all previous global trade had been about moving materials from warm places (abundant solar energy) to colder ones – spices, food, etc. The ice trade became very successful and the ice barons of New England became rich.

It is this ice that led to the growth of Chicago. While Chicago became a transportation hub thanks to some excellent engineering and building of railroads, it became the hub of the meat industry due to refrigerated meat. How that happened is coming up next week…

A man who has drank his drinks cold at the same expense for one week can never be presented with them warm again. – Frederick Tudor 🙂


Source and thanks to: How we got to now by Steven Johnson

(This story and quote is part of “The 200 words project.” I aim to synthesize a story from a book (and, occasionally a blog or article) I’ve read within 200 words consecutive Sundays for around 45 weeks of the year.)