Fourteen years ago, I visited Uppsala, Sweden. Uppsala is the closest thing Sweden has to a college town. Think of it as a Swedish Champaign-Urbana. If you haven’t been to Champaign-Urbana or don’t know much about Sweden, picture Gävle. Uppsala is like Gävle, only instead of a massive Gevalia coffee factory, it has one of Europe’s most prestigious universities, and instead of a giant burning straw goat, Uppsala doesn’t have a burning anything.
The important thing to know about Uppsala is that the science scene is tight. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, so it’s possible that I’ll get some of the details wrong, but stay with me. Between my fading memories and Wikipedia, what could go wrong?
The most memorable part of my trip was seeing Celsius’s thermometer. Before Celsius invented Celsius (the world’s one-and-only means of determining temperature), white folks didn’t have a way of telling cold from warm.
“Should I stick my hand in this bonfire?”
“Is today a good day to go wakeboarding on this frozen lake?”
These were mysteries. Occasionally, there was discomfort.
Celsius set forth to rectify this situation. He ripped off Fahrenheit by putting some delicious Mercury into a glass tube. Then, Celsius proceeded to stick his rod in various things and take note of what happened. While that might sound questionable, remember that he spoke Swedish.
Celsius was fucking crushing it. The influence of atmospheric pressure on water’s boiling point, the non-influence of atmospheric pressure of water’s freezing point– he nailed it.
Meanwhile, the other player in Uppsala was Carl Linnaeus. I’d like to say that the two were BFFs, but I don’t think that was the case. I can’t imagine Celsius Snapchatting Linnaeus to be all like “check out my rod!” (Besides, those guys spoke Swedish.)
It’s not like Linnaeus would have gotten back to some crusty astronomer about a magic tube. Linnaeus was busy being a biology party boy. Yes, that used to be a thing. These days the kids are all Macklemore this and cinnamon challenge that. Back in the day, Saturday night was all about comparitive botany and systematic taxonomy. Linnaeus invented the 18th century version of Scattergories, and he was having all the people over to his house.
Eventually, Celsius died. You didn’t think he was still with us, did you? Anyhow, never one to miss a trend, Linnaeus got himself some thermometers. He was not impressed. He was all:
O_o Very Temperature. Why So Much Degrees?
You see, Celsius thought it was a good idea to make the boiling point of water 0 degrees, with the temperature increasing up to water’s freezing point of 100 degrees. Why not?
But Celsius wasn’t the biology party boy of Uppsala. Linnaeus took his Sharpie and flipped that rod. That, in essence, is why it’s -40 at my house right now.
Motherfucking Linnaeus, man.