Anniversary Post: Air Conditioning

Willis CarrierIt was 100°F Sunday — with very high humidity. So I really need to talk about Willis Carrier who built the first modern air conditioner on this day in 1902. He actually wrote down the plans four days earlier. His main innovation was to include humility control. That’s the thing: most of the heat in the air is contained in the water vapor. You get rid of that, and it gets cool — fast. In fact, if you want to defog your windows, put the hot air through the air conditioner, and the windows will clear shockingly fast.

This all reminds me of a trip I took to southern China in the summer of 1992. I’m not much good with languages. But it was so hot and muggy, I made people teach me three phrases. The first was “air conditioning.” The phrase for this means literally “cold air.” And the Chinese words are, “Lěng kōngqì” or “冷空气.” The way I remember pronouncing this was, “Lung chee.”

The second phrase was, “Cold beer.” This is, “Lěng píjiǔ” or “冷啤酒.” The way I pronounced it was, “Lung pee-gee-oh.” But I don’t think anyone was ever happy with my pronunciation. The last phrase was simply, “Thank you.” That’s “Xièxiè” or “谢谢.” Most people know how to pronounce this, “Shea Shea.”

So I would walk around Guangzhou repeating over and over, “Lěng píjiǔ. Lěng kōngqì. Xièxiè.” Yes, I put beer first. Priorities are important.

2 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Air Conditioning

  1. Very funny! Humidity’s the worst. I actually became a baseball fan as an adult because the Metrodome had AC. I wouldn’t be surprised if AC helped give birth to the modern shopping mall, or helped keep movies alive. (There’s always something keeping movies alive, be it AC, color film, sound, widescreen, the invention of fan mags, Marvel movies, 3D, Dolby, whatever. Like movies are the Prodigal Son with their own Movie God who keeps saying, “oh, alright, I’ll cover your ass again with this lucky new thing.”)

    AC uses power but, theoretically at least, someday we could have mostly clean power. It’s not like using water to make your lawn in Phoenix green.

    • Yeah, I tried to escape the heat a few days ago by going to see Minions. But I screwed up the time so just stayed home and worked in the heat.

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