Monday, May 14, 2012

Icy ice ice

While walking through the downtown, I noticed this strangely organic pillar of white. Protected by a fence and barbed wire and a "no smoking" sign.
It looked at first like plastic, its uneven surface polished smooth. There seemed no ready explanation for a plastic blob protecting these pipes, and gradually my brain -- loosened from reality by the inhumane 80F+ temperatures -- wrapped itself around the idea that this might be ice.

It looks like ice. But what sort of reverse-heat sink ("heat source"?) is conducted on this scale, outdoors? And accompanied by the slow but steady dripping of water? I suppose it could be condensation, but in that case, the heat source is very poorly designed, because it is gradually reducing its radiative capacity with a giant, thermally-insulating icicle. If icicles were built by trowel, not by fairies.

Also, what good is an outdoors heat source in Canada? For a significant part of the year, outside will be below freezing and these pipes will only serve as a traditional heat sink.
Lastly, "no smoking"? The thought that a discarded cigarette butt could have some deleterious effect on this ice hunk is charming.

This post's theme word is esker, "a long, narrow ridge of gravel and sand deposited by a stream flowing in or under a retreating glacier." A bizarre esker of ice loomed above the city's summer streets.

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