Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Winter Research

     This time I am deliberately not writing about winter and its experiences poetically, but am instead approaching it from a purely scientific viewpoint; for we boys had lots of time to experiment with winter from a passionately scientific, technical viewpoint; we tried to ascertain what winter’s consequences were and what were its practical applications. Today’s younger generation does not get as much from winter, maybe just skis and hockey; their interest in winter is sporting rather than scientific. Only Papanin and his colleagues on the ice floes continue the sorts of practical testing of winter that every proper boy attempted in his day.1 From a technical standpoint it is possible to undertake a great number of experiments with winter, of which I shall name at least a few:

     It is possible to chase snowflakes with your hand and watch them as they fall; but no one has yet succeeded in catching one no matter how numb the hand gets.

     It is possible to test what flavor the frost has; I once tried this on the brass doorknob of the house and tore off a bit of my tongue when it froze to it;

     it is also possible to breathe circles or stamp your nose onto frozen windows;

     and also to write with your finger on windows and prove your creative or literary talent in this way.

     It is possible to lick icicles with the goal of ascertaining their taste and nutritive value.

     and also to knock them down with a snowballs or rocks to verify their fragility and their glassy voice;

     and lastly to test how they thaw, namely by secretly placing a piece of icicle into your father’s pocket.

     One can successfully try sliding according to the proper rules of motion (standing, sitting, on one leg, or even with a pirouette).

     Skating has also been tried successfully with twigs tied to one shoe, or even (entirely exceptionally) to both.

     On sleds one can ride facing forwards, on one’s stomach, or (normally with terrible results) while facing backwards.

     Packing snow or making snowballs depends on the type of snow; soggy snow must be greatly compressed in the palms, which results in a smaller caliber but higher potency; normal, malleable snow allows the use of snowballs of the largest size; dry, dusty snow is only recommended for use in attacking with loose snowy clouds.

     Shaking snow or other things from tree branches offers valuable experience in how quickly snow can get through one’s collar and into one’s shirt, and where it goes from there.

     Snowmen are important, and, for most people, their only attempt at figure sculpting,

     Whereas making snow angels in freshly fallen snow betrays an interest in one’s own figure and size.

     Footprints in the snow allow you to sign the world with the letters of your own name;

     you can similarly try signing your name another way, about which we will say no more.

     The creation of avalanches can be performed most effectively on barn roofs by throwing snowballs at them.

     And let us not even forget kicking a piece of ice along, especially when they're delivering ice to the bars; we sometimes even seem entirely serious adults engaging in this pastime on their way home from the office, and think that no one is watching them.

     Just look and see how pitiful winter sports appear compared to everything that winter offers the normal boy with a technical brain and thirst for knowledge!



1 Ivan Dmitriyevich Papanin—-Soviet polar explorer and participant in polar expeditions since 1931, and leader of a scientific expedition which examined the geophysical conditions of ice floes in the winter of 1937-38


qk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
qk said...

This is really great...I'm really drawn to winter imagery, especially now that I haven't experienced it in a couple seasons. (Is this yours or something you've translated?)

( to these blogger comments...accidentally deleted this the first time I posted it...)

Andrew said...

No worries. Anything with the Capek tag is a chapter from a posthumous collection of shorter pieces and columns called "Almanac." I guess I should make that clearer? I have a translation blog, but felt like putting stuff here was more appropriate. There I go rambling again.

This is the starter post.

And yes, here in California I've been drawn to the winter imagery as well, especially since sixty-eight and sunny doesn't exactly trigger it for me so much.

qk said...

Ah, gotcha.

Yeah, even hovering right around the lower thirties with an intermittent eighth-inch of snow on the ground doesn't really do it.

qk said...

(...and yet these Illinois people dare to call such a thing winter!) =)