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Feeling The Heat

This program is rebroadcast from Jan. 15, 2013

Fire-walking, the hydrogen bomb, Death Valley, and more. We’ll go deep on the essence of heat.



Heat can sound like paradise.  A summer breeze.  A tropical vacation. And heat can sound like hell.  Death Valley.  Heat stroke.  Raging fire. We crave it when we’re cold.  We fear it when it’s too much.  We can scarcely imagine its extremes, in a nuclear blast or the origins of the universe.  The Big Bang. Writer Bill Streever has circled the world on the trail of heat.  Its history, its extremes, its nature, its effects.  Humans have built life around it, and have fled its wrath. This hour, On Point:  adventures in the realm of heat.

-Tom Ashbrook


Bill Streever, author of “Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: A Record Worth Wilting For: Death Valley Is Hotter Than …  –”After a yearlong investigation by a team of climate scientists, the World Meteorological Organization, the climate agency of the United Nations, announced this fall that it was throwing out a reading of 136.4 degrees claimed by the city of Al Aziziyah on Sept. 13, 1922.”

National Geographic: 2012: Hottest Year on Record for Continental U.S. – “Temperatures across the continental United States soared in 2012 to an all-time high, making last year the warmest year on record for the country by a wide margin, scientists say.”

Read An Excerpt from “Heat” byBill Streever


“Turn on the Heat” — The Charleston Chasers

“Volcano” — The Presidents of the United States of America

“Fire” — Ingrid Michaelson

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  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Interestingly, the Bible in 2 Peter 3:7-11 says that the second worldwide judgment will not be by water as was the first (the worldwide flood), but by fire and intense heat. Whether it is by global warming, the earth wobbling off of its orbit slightly, intense solar flares, man made nuclear annihilation, a large asteroid or some other object impacting the earth, or some other more direct example of God’s divine judgment upon mankind for rejecting God’s truth as revealed exclusively in the Bible, the judgment by intense heat will come.

    “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”

    • geraldfnord

      Ah, but the light of Heaven is as of seven suns, and thre is a limit to high brimstone can get before it will burn, leading some to speculate that Heaven is hotter than Hell.

      I will also note that your guess as to our future has been made repeatedly for nearly two millenia, and that by any reasonable measure ours is less ‘God-rejecting’—our natural state, in most Christian thought, so one He’d not hold against were he moral—than most other times, all unsinged by Heaven’s fire.

      I will note again that if a TV pitch-man were to say ‘Buy my product or be tortured forever.’ I’d suspect that he were dealing in shoddy goods with little real to recomend them.

    • creaker

      It’s definitely on the calendar – eventually the sun will expand, turning the earth to a cinder before it is enveloped by the red giant the sun will become.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        In about 5 billion years.

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        I think we have time on our side. ;^)

    • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

      The end of the world and threat of judgement by a fearsome, unforgiving God or gods has been literally at hand since humans first invented words with which to share their fears, anxiety and ‘visions’ and either find some hope in an explanation or manipulate others to do their will through fear or promise of reward. God or no God, man has proved capable of the most insidious, heartless treachery to achieve selfish ends. Man doesn’t need God to create hell: he’s been perpetuating it with violence and war with or without religion for many millennia.

  • Peter Duveen

    Heat is a great topic, full of interesting things. Study of heat led to the quantum theory. I myself am fascinated by it, and demonstrated a way in which the temperature of the burning embers of a fireplace can be measured without a thermometer.

  • Yar

    Its cold out today, looking for something warm for lunch. Anyone have a quark gluon soup recipe?

  • Peter Duveen

    Count Rumford, not Rutherford. Christiaan Huygens, the 17th Century inventor of the pendulum clock, seemed to grasp that heat was the motion of elementary particles of some kind. Around the same time, Robert Boyle also seemed to think along these lines, as did, one supposes, the early Greeks. But a quantitative expression for the molecular theory did not enter until the 1700s, when one of the Bernoulli family (Daniel?) wrote a paper on it. It was picked up in the early 1800s by a number of investigators, who were virtually ignored. But around 1848 James Prescott Joule published a calculation of the actual average speeds of molecules in a gas, and that was perhaps the beginning of a wider acceptance of the molecular theory of heat. Rudolph Clausius published more sophisticated analyses in the 1850s, followed by a probabilistic treatment by James Clerk Maxwell around 1860. That led to the first credible estimate of the size of a molecule by Josef Loschmidt in 1865.

  • http://www.AgeOfAnanda.net Kumar Nochur

    In the Veda, Agni, the cosmic force of fire, heat, and the energy of life is the first of the divine lights — devas — to be lauded. In over 2000 Vedic mantras, the rishis of the Vedas help us to commune and connect with Agni through the practice of yoga, yajna, and meditation. Sri Aurobindo has revealed the esoteric meaning of Agni as the Divine Will in us, waiting to be ignited to make us take off on the journey of spiritual evolution to ananda, the bliss of pure consciousness.

    While Agni operates at all levels from physical fire to digestive fires to the fire of Kundalini rising up the spine, the primary thrust of this devine agency is evolutionary — raising man to the height of spiritual realization at the summit of the head where the presiding fire deva is Surya, the solar effulgence that rains 100 trillion neutrinos through us every second. From Agni to Surya is the arc of human evolution. When Agni is awakened, the aspirant gets a second birth and is put on the arc of conscious evolution to the higher harmonies. Agni is the priest of the gods, the leader of the human evolutionary journey, our friend and benefactor in our ascent to ananda.

    If interested in more details on the above, please visit http://www.AgeOfAnanda.net

  • Larry Bergsneider

    15 or so years ago I rode a motorcycle from San Diego to Phoenix in July. I was overheating in my full leathers and gloves. I removed my gloves to hopefully get some air to flow through my leathers, and as I was passing through a section of the freeway with large boulders, I could smell and see the hair on my hands and arms being singed.

  • perihelion22

    You gave a poor response to the woman with sweating eyeballs: A forehead sweatband will prevent this from happening. Of course, the eyeballs don’t have sweat glands.

  • Informed American

    This show is quite appropriate since Mr. Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama, seems hell bent on provoking a war with Russia, which unfortunately for the rest of humanity, could go nuclear.

  • Michael Difani

    My sister lives and works in Lone Pine, Calif. at the Information Center and it’s north of the road to Death Valley. The valley is a major tourist attraction from visitors world wide. One more late 60′s rock song was “Fire”.

  • Michael Difani

    The late 60′s hit “Fire” was by rocker Arthur Brown, I think.

  • Art Toegemann

    From the end of a Rhode Island winter: solar panels. Technically light, but the sun, the stars are heats.

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