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Discovery Magazine 4/1/2007


Keeping it Cool

by  A.P. Staff

What do you do when it is 100 degrees outside in the middle of the Summer? I can think of two things: go swimming or stay inside in a cool, air-conditioned house. Have you ever wondered how your house can be 75 degrees inside when it is over 100 degrees outside? It is because engineers have learned to build machines that can pump cool air into our homes and pump hot air out.

Did you know that nature has some engineers that have mastered the art of air-conditioning? Termites. That’s right. These little wood-eating insects have an amazing ability to keep their large termite mounds the perfect temperature. Termites need to work in an environment that stays about 87 degrees. But termites often live in areas that can get extremely hot in the day, about 104 degrees, and cold at night, about 35 degrees. How do they keep their houses “just right”? Termites build special mounds with several vents that send hot air out the top. They also build vents at the base of the mound that trap the outside breeze and send cool air flowing through the structure. During cool nights, the special vents and airflow keep the mound warm.

In the city of Harare, Zimbabwe, architect Mick Pearce built an office building called Eastgate. He modeled his building after a termite mound. His biomimetic (nature-copying) building is a work of art, and it is very efficient. The building stays the perfect temperature, but uses only 10 percent of the energy used by other buildings in the area. The builders of Eastgate believe that they have saved over 3.5 million dollars in energy costs, simply by copying termites.

Where would termites learn to build an air conditioning system? They could not have evolved the ability, because they would have died before they learned to get the temperature to stay 87 degrees. The only honest answer is that God, the Ultimate Engineer, created them with the ability to build air-conditioned mounds. When we see design like we see in the termite mound, we should look to the eternal Designer and give Him our praise.



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