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Sickness, Transient & Gloriously Mundane On:2007-02-27 04:29:23

I blame that old Prussian bugger Fahrenheit for much of what follows---if only he hadn’t had bit of a fever that day.
Oh, sorry, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about so, before I make a frightful, absolute horlicks of this essay, let’s back up a bit: you see the other week I got attacked by some unknown and totally unmentionable and disgustingly non-Hollywoodishly-attractive oral virus. It was horrible; for not only was this virus not in the Hollywood tradition of tastefully non-disfiguring diseases, it didn’t even fit into the Bollywood model (which is really rather similar but with the addition of a lot of singing and dancing, a sword fight, a cow standing in the middle of the road for no very discernible reason and a much bigger audience).

To make matters worse I was reduced to subsisting largely on pabulum (otherwise known as yogurt) and hot sweet tea (otherwise known as hot sweet tea); and even, at one stage, on nothing at all.
By a strange co-incidence “nothing at all” was pretty much all my otherwise rather cute lady doctor could tell me about either the disease or its cure.

Now it’s probably inappropriate to bring it up here, if only because of the sheer but-did-you-enjoy-the-play-Mrs-Lincoln-ishness of it, but I do have a rather cute, and moreover young, lady doctor, and this cute young doctor lady brings to mind a strange phenomenon. I’ve noticed over the last twenty or so years that the average age of doctors has decreased substantially, so that now they all look like mere kids---this no doubt being related to the similar phenomenon, during the same period, that has effected policemen too! Ah! Yes! I remember oh twenty or more years ago how doctors (and policemen too) were so much older: then they were mature individuals complete with gravitas and wisdom apparent and even, in extreme cases, senility rampant; but now, now, the only effect of their appearance on me is to make me wish that they didn’t have such a tendency to see me at my less-than-best. And least sexy!

And anyway to return (as far as ever I can) to the appropriate: the other thing that this medicinal debacle set me to thinking about was bodily temperature and of course its accompanying units and perception. Well the buggers did keep taking mine, I’m sure for want of anything more effective. And this constant attention to my temporarily intemperate state and the probing beneath my sore and fevered tongue with devices that (such is the modern way) beep at you coupled with the lack of WiFi in my doctor’s office and the concomitant lack of anything else to do set me athinking of that aforementioned fevered Fahrenheit and his amazing ability to fix in our minds the horror of anything much above (or below for that matter) the golden mean of 98.6---the value 98.6 having inveigled itself so much into our culture that there are actual popular songs dedicated to it.

The Origin legend (for such I’m sure it is) that I learned in Physics, way back when I was young and doctors were old, was that he set his zero to the lowest temperature he could achieve and set 100 degrees to (presumably his own current) body temperature---hence my earlier repeated references to him as fevered. Of course there are many other stories of the setting of the Fahrenheit scale and it’s pretty obvious that (attractive as a lady doctor as that one might be), it’s far more likely that old Mr. F was not being so degradingly centigrade, but was instead being much more mathematically sensitive. He most likely did set his zero as fabled to the lowest temp he could reach so that he could avoid nasty negative numbers and then, rather than a pathetic finger-licking decimal scale, he set his body temp to be 96; giving a nice fine scale (avoiding horrid fractions or decimals) and (to the delight of mathematicians everywhere) a scale with lots of factors--96 being 8 times 3 times 4 etc. This original scale being later adjusted so that water froze at 32 and boiled at 212 (at standard pressure, of course) with the unfortunate side effect that body temp suddenly became a bit less integral though rather more memorable.

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton


Sic transit gloria mundi:
Of course now that the vile decimal system is spreading, poor Mr F is being condemned to oblivion around the world; why of late, back home in Britain, we have been forced to switch to the evil centigrade system (or as they now call it in hopes of fooling us---Celsius) and this cruel change has left my aged parents feeling cold and confused in either system

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