Obvious statement: ice is cold.
Question: Why is ice cold?
Here’s a screenshot of my search:
I started with a pretty obvious statement that led me to an interesting answer: ice is “not really” cold but it feels cold to our human touch because of our body temperature. This response made me wonder if there’s a species to which ice does not feel is cold as to humans. I googled “does ice feel cold to all animals” and the answer is “it depends.” Some animals, like seals, sea lions and walruses have physiological adaptations to cold climates, while others have behavioral adaptations, like whales and dolphins. However, I feel like the answer I got didn’t really answer my question, but I imagine is pretty hard for scientists to figure out what a nonverbal animal is feeling.
Maybe I didn’t get the answer I was looking for because the verb “feel” is very ambiguous and I should have found a better way to ask that question. It’s hard to translate inquisitive, “mind” questions to “Google” questions, especially when we are so used to having Google complete our questions for us. I feel that, the longer and more subjective a question is, the least helpful/straightforward will the answers be. In a way that’s good because it encourages me to research and read more, but on the other hand it takes a lot of time.
Still under the same question I clicked on an article that explained why dogs’ paws don’t freeze when they walk on ice or snow. According to the article, dogs have a lot of fat on their paws that helps insulate heat in their bodies, and they also have a special adaptation called a “counter-current heat exchange system.” Basically, the arteries leading blood to the paws are surrounded by veins, that bring the blood back to the heart. The heat contained in the arterial blood emanates to the neighboring veins, thus making it slightly warmer as it would be if this network was not in place. However, the article explains that domestic dogs may lose this adaptation to cold due to living in heated houses with their humans, so owners should take special precautions to make sure their dogs don’t suffer when taking walks in the winter.
Learning this about domestic dogs made me wonder if people living in different environments have different reactions to cold weather. I googled “do some people feel colder than others” and the Cliff notes version is yes, some people are naturally inclined to feel colder than others in the same environment. But again that’s not I meant to get at with my question. I wanted to know if someone from Costa Rica would feel colder in the same room as someone from Norway, for example. I just didn’t know how to formulate this question. I felt compelled to simplify my question as much as possible to get a lot of possible responses from Google, but then I got none that answered my question. Of course, it’s my own fault for not being clearer and more specific, but I feel that Google should have predicted what I really meant because, well, that’s what it does!
The reason I wanted to know if someone from a warmer climate would feel colder than someone from a colder climate is because I used to feel a lot colder when I first moved to the US but now I have “adapted.” I don’t need 6 layers of clothes in the winter anymore, only 4. So I changed my question and googled “can humans adapt to cold weather.” Well, of course we can because we have already. The Inuits live in one of the worst climates and they’re still kickin’ it under their fur coats. But the long article I ended up reading didn’t really answer my question, because I meant adaptation on an individual level and not a population level. I should’ve known better because obviously no research is done on a single subject, duh.
What I learned from this experience is that 1) I need to ask more specific questions; 2) I need to be more patient when looking for answers, and 3) I need to be able to interpret general answers to my own experience if I am to get a straight answer that means something to me. Unfortunately we do not have full “man-computer symbiosis” yet, because if we did I think my search would have been more complete and straightforward. If my computer had known exactly what I was asking I could have gotten a better answer. But for now I’ll need to work on research skills to get more out of Google.