Watercooler Ammo: Hot Hot Heat

Now that you've had your 1,354th conversation about the weather, you're probably running a little low on things to say about it -- so let us drop some trivia like it's, er, hot:

* The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth most likely occurred in Death Valley, California in high summer, 1913. During that time, the national weather service recorded 56.7°C (134°F). Other sources report an even toastier day of 136°F or 58°C in Al Aziziyah, Libya, in September 1922.

* The surface of the sun, also called the photosphere, averages about 6,000°C (11,000°F), which doesn't even begin to compare to the temp at the core (15,000,000°C; 27,000,000°F).

* The universe as a whole is actually pretty cool -- it averages 2.725 +/- 0.002 degrees Kelvin (think Celsius but starting at absolute zero, or -273°C/-459°F). The Milky Way is about 0.0001°K warmer on average, which is one of the many reasons you're not wearing mittens right now.

* Apparently, "a freak heat wave hit the central coast of Portugal on July 6, 1949, sending the temperature up to 158°F for a period of about two minutes. Moments later the mercury slid back down to the mid-120s. No explanation for this bizarre heat wave has ever been offered." (Caveat: We're not sure we believe this. Anyone here from Portugal?)

* In August 1995, farmers in Missouri reported that fresh bales of hay were spontaneously combusting due to the high temperature -- the methane emitted inside was catching fire.

Finally, let me take this opportunity to share one of my all-time favorite (and surprisingly easy) tips from Lifehacker: how to make your own $30 air conditioner.

Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London

Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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