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Back Of The Envelope: How Warm Is It On Low Steps?

Students sitting on the Low Library steps during a sunny day

Thinking of a warmer time

Many of us know that you can measure a cricket’s chirps to determine how warm it is outside. But did you know that there’s another way to scientifically estimate the temperature in Morningside Heights? When it gets a little warmer, you can use this one neat trick to figure out how warm or cold it is on everyone’s favorite fake beach, the Low Steps.

Materials

  • Outdoor temperature between 32 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit – Columbia students will not crawl out of their dorms in the freezing cold.
  • A view of the Low Steps – the South Lawns are an ideal location.
  • Thermometer (or, let’s be honest, a weather app)
  • Scratch paper

Procedure

  • Go outside to check out the Low Steps.
  • Pick either the left of right half of the lower steps, right underneath Alma Mater.
  • Count the number of people sitting on the Low Steps. Ignore anybody walking, as the extra motion can complicate counting.
    • If you would like to increase accuracy, count the second half and average the count of the two halves.
  • If a majority of students have laptops, multiply the count by 1.25.
  • Add 20 to the number of seated students. This will provide the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit.
  • To calculate the approximate temperature in Celsius, learn to use Fahrenheit instead.

Rumor has it that this formula was first found in a 1932 fraternity handbook. Try it out yourself when it gets a bit warmer! Deantini would be proud of your highly scientific estimations.

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