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The Smells of Fall

Although the first day of fall was on September 23 this year, I didn't notice it was fall until last night. Why? Well, it didn't smell like fall.

Here in Portland, there's a particular smell I associate with the onset of fall -- the smell of people's first fireplace fires of the year. And somehow, last night everybody in my neighborhood got the memo and lit up. You can tell it's the first fireplace fire in a long time, because there's a weird wet twinge to the smoky odor (presumably there's special stuff in the chimney that's been accumulating all year). This smell means to me: time to figure out how many vacation days I have left.

I spent most of my childhood in Florida, where there was no distinctive smell to mark the coming of fall. The only thing I'd notice was that it got dark a little earlier, and I'd feel weird about it being 95 degrees on Halloween night. Truly unfortunate.

I do remember a fall smell from my year living in Philadelphia as a young child. There, I knew it was fall (okay, almost winter) when I'd smell the rotting Ginkgo leaves -- a distinctive stink that was great fun to complain about, for a good three weeks each year.

So here I am, enjoying the onset of fall. Pretty soon it'll be time for the smells of winter (for me, this involves paperwhite narcissus flowers). But for now, boy does that chimney smoke smell nice. But what about you -- what smells mean it's fall for you?

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Al-Ansari.)

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The Most (and Least) Expensive States for Staying Warm This Winter
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It’s that time of year again: Temperatures outside have plummeted, while your monthly heating bill is on the rise. If you want an idea of how much heat will cost you this winter (perhaps you blocked out last year’s damage to your bank account), one reliable indicator is location.

Average energy expenses vary from state to state due to factors like weather, house size, and local gas prices. Using data from sources including the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, WalletHub calculated the average monthly utility bill totals for all 50 states plus Washington D.C. in 2017.

Source: WalletHub

The personal finance website looked at four energy costs: electricity, natural gas, car fuel, and home heating oil. After putting these components together, Connecticut was found to be the state with the highest energy costs in 2017, with an average of $380 in monthly bills, followed by Alaska with $332 and Rhode Island with $329.

That includes data from the summer and winter months. For a better picture of which state’s residents spend the most on heat, we have to look at the individual energy costs. Michigan, which ranks 33rd overall, outdoes every other state in the natural gas department with an average bill of $60 a month. Alaska is close behind with $59, followed by Rhode Island With $58.

People living in Maine prefer oil to heat their homes, spending $84 a month on the fuel source. All six New England states—Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts—occupy the top six spots in this category.

So which state should you move to if you want to see your heating bill disappear? In Florida, the average household spends just $3 a month on natural gas and $0 on heating oil. In Hawaii, on average, the oil bill is $0 as well, and slightly higher for gas at $4. Of course, they make up for it when it comes time to crank up the AC: Both states break the top 10 in highest electricity costs.


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Why Are Glaciers Blue?
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The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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