|MLA Citation:||Bloomfield, Louis A. "How Everything Works" How Everything Works 23 Jan 2018. Page 119 of 160. 23 Jan 2018 <http://www.howeverythingworks.org/prints.php?topic=all&page=119>.|
When you wrap yourself in a wet cloth, you are ensuring that the relative humidity near the surface of your skin will be close to 100%. Air molecules will still be present around your skin but now there will be essentially no net transfer of water between your skin and the surrounding air—water molecules will leave your skin for the air at roughly the same rate as water molecules return to your skin from the air. In effect, you are stopping evaporation from your skin and very little else. Stopping evaporation from your skin will also cause it to accumulate moisture, but this time the new moisture will come from within your body. Water molecules that would have left your skin had it been surrounded by dry air are now staying in your skin, where they add to the moisture in your skin. Overall, you skin will contain more water but it will not have lost as many water-soluble chemicals and it will not have water driven into it by osmotic pressure. It may be this more gentle moisturizing effect that makes wrapping yourself in a damp sheet more pleasant for your eczema than immersing yourself in water.
Your suggestions for why the bubbles appear raise two interesting points. First, in a thermal system such as hot water, you can't identify some molecules as being boiling hot and others as being cooler—temperature is a property of the entire system and not of individual molecules. However, at a given instant, there are molecules with more energy than their neighbors and it is these energetic molecules that may break free of their neighbors to form a bubble nucleus.
Second, water often contains dissolved gases and these gases come out of solution when the water is heated. While many of the gas molecules leave through the water's surface, some of them may leave as bubbles from within the water. This gas bubble formation requires nucleation as well, which is why these bubbles often appear on the inner surfaces of a metal pot on the stove—flaws in the pot's surface assist bubble nucleation. But these gas bubbles aren't what you observed; there just isn't that much dissolve gas. You can prove that the bubbles you observe are steam: repeat the experiment several times with the same water. Each time you heat the water and add sugar, it bubbles wildly—something that wouldn't be possible if you were simply releasing dissolved gases from the water.
The landing and leaving processes are in perpetual competition and the fastest one wins. If the air is humid and the object is cold or attractive to water molecules, the landing process dominates and water condenses out of the air and onto the object. If the air is dry and the object is hot or doesn't bind water molecules well, taking off dominates and water evaporates from the object into the air.
Your problem is that the air in your closets is very humid and landing is winning—too much water is condensing on your walls. To stop this condensation, you either have to heat the walls, so that water molecules leave them faster, or reduce the humidity of the air, so that water molecules land less often. Putting a material that binds water molecules into your closets changes the balance of landing and taking off—water molecules that land on this material don't return to the air often so the humidity of the air diminishes. With less humidity in the air, the rate at which water molecules land on the walls also diminishes.
But this drying effect only works if the air in the closet is trapped there. If your closet exchanges air quickly with outdoor air, the water molecules removed by the drying agent will be quickly replaced with new water molecules from outside. In effect, you will be trying to dry the great outdoors, a hopeless task. To make the most of this drying agent, you should let it work on as little air as possible by sealing the closet and slowing the exchange of air with outside. Better yet, replace the drying agent with a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier accumulates water molecules from the air by presenting the air with a chilled surface. Water molecules land on the cold surface and then don't have enough energy to return to the air. They are trapped by the cold rather than by chemical binding.
Second, to make efficient use of the wind created by traffic, hundreds of wind generators would have to be installed on each mile of expressway. Since wind generators are expensive, it's much more cost effective to put them on windy ridges out in the country or by the seashore.
Third, the wind generators you propose would actually extract energy from the cars and trucks and reduce their gas mileages! That fact might surprise you, since it would seem that extracting energy from the wind wouldn't have any effect on the cars and trucks that created that wind. But the wind and the vehicles continue to interact as they move along the expressway—each vehicle drags a pocket of air with it and interfering with this air pocket has the effect of interfering with the vehicle! The vehicle uses energy to maintain this moving air pocket and it burns additional fuel. An aerodynamically well-designed vehicle has a relatively small air pocket, but there is a limit to what can be done. To reduce the energy cost of maintaining the air pocket, the vehicle's driver can steer it into the air pocket behind another vehicle so that the two vehicles share a single air pocket. The lead vehicle then provides most of the energy needed to keep the air pocket moving. This technique of sharing an air pocket is called "drafting" and is frequently used by bicycle racers. But while drafting makes it easier for many vehicles to keep their air pockets moving, the wind generators that you propose would make it harder—they would steal energy from the air pockets of every passing vehicle and make those vehicles fight harder to keep their air pockets moving.
A better way to save energy would be to encourage large-scale drafting in some safe way. Having chains of independent cars tailgate one another would be energy efficient, but would cause horrific accidents. However, assembling those cars into a tightly coupled "train" may someday become possible with advances in technology and computer controls.
But to be even more energy efficient, the sewage that was just sterilized a minute ago and is still hot can be used to heat the sewage that is about to be treated! A well designed thermal treatment facility could employ "counter-current exchange"—that is it could pass the hot, treated material through a heat exchanger to allow it to transfer most of its excess heat to the cooler, untreated material that is about to be sterilized. By recycling the heat in this manner, the facility could avoid having to burn so much fuel. The only drawback with this technique is that the heat exchanger must be leak-proof—it must keep the sterilized material from touching and being contaminated by the unsterilized material.
However, if you trap the air underneath the car, so that its volume can't increase, and then heat that air, its pressure will rise. This increased pressure below the car would produce an overall upward pressure force on the car and could support the car's weight. In effect, you would be creating a ground-effect hovercraft in which the elevated pressure of trapped hot air supports the weight of the vehicle. But it would be easier and less energy-intensive to pump air underneath your hovercraft with a big fan. That's what most ground-effect vehicles do. They pack extra air molecules underneath themselves and then allow those molecules to support their weight. Furthermore, because air molecules are always leaking out from beneath the vehicle, you'll need a fan to replace them anyway.
To understand how this difference in speeds is possible, think about what happens when you turn on the water to a long hose. If that hose is already filled with water, water will immediately begin pouring out of the hose's end even though the water is flowing quite slowly through the hose. While the water itself moves slowly, the water's effects travel through the hose at the speed of sound in water—several miles per second! Water at the end of the hose "knows" that you have opened the faucet long before new water from the faucet arrives.
Similarly, when you turn on a flashlight, electrons begin to flow out of the battery's negative terminal at speeds of only a few millimeters per second. But these electrons don't have to travel all the way to the light bulb for the bulb to light up. When these electrons leave the battery, they push on the electrons in front of them, which push on the electrons in front of them, and so on. They produce an electromagnetic wave that rushes through the wire at an incredible speed. As a result, electrons begin flowing through the light bulb only a few billionths of a second after the first electron left the battery. So while the electrons that carry electricity through the power grid flow rather slowly, the power they deliver moves remarkably fast.
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