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
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.