Monday, October 11, 2010

Thermotats And Voter Literacy

More on my snarky theme, Literacy Tests for Voters and Public Servants.

Are thermostats valves or switches? The way they work is to sense room temperature, and to switch the furnace on or off, depending on the setting a human chooses. This one has a feature that changes the setting depending on time. Most of us, including me, treat thermosstats like valves: set the thing higher, and more heat might come out, but the furnace only has one setting. (What's really happening is that we're cheating, getting a little warmer until somebody more responsible comes along and busts us.)

Why is this important? Thermostats are an example of negative feedback, and an introduction to thinking accurately about how the world works.

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