Why summer is so unfair for people in the city, as explained by science.

Many cities around the U.S. are kind of awful to walk around right now.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.


Stepping outside feels like stepping into one of those Quizno's sandwich toasters.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

And if you've ever thought, "Man, this has got to be the hottest place for miles," well ... you might be right.

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

(Though there might be something we can do about it.)

Cities are hotter than their surrounding countrysides. Sometimes more than 20 degrees hotter.

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

That's according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is because of something called the "heat island effect."

Photo from Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Our cities are basically giant jumbles of asphalt and concrete — both of which love to hold onto heat from the sun.

Photo by Andre Manoel/Flickr.

The countryside, on the other hand, is full of stuff like dirt and trees, which tend to stay cooler.

Photo from David McNew/Getty Images.

Cities are full of heat we produce ourselves – including, paradoxically, from air conditioners.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Air conditioning works by essentially taking all the heat from inside the building and shoving it out the window.

You know, where all the rest of us are.

Not to mention all that car exhaust.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

This excess heat in cities can be dangerous — and it's likely to get worse.

Photo from Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are a serious problem, especially for sick people, infants, and anyone who can't find a way to cool off.

Unfortunately, climate change is predicted to increase the number and severity of heat waves.

OK, so yes, that seems bad, but there's good news. We know how to defeat the heat island effect.

Photo from Alex Wong/Getty Images.

One trick? More green space.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Trees and plants provide shade and don't retain heat the same way concrete does. They can also help reduce air pollution.

Plants aren't just good on the street – they're effective on our roofs as well.

Photo by Ryan Somma/Flickr.

Even just painting the roof of a building white can help.

Beyond city design, individuals can also help keep cities cool by creating green spaces, like community gardens.

An urban garden in Fort Myers, Florida. Photo from Stars Complex Urban Garden/Flickr.

Or even just by trying to drive less and use less electricity in the summer.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

There are a ton of clever tips for keeping cool instead of reaching for that air conditioner in the summer.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

So the next time someone says, "This city is way too hot," you look 'em dead in the eye and tell them they're right.

Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images.

Then take them down to city hall or your local garden store and show them how we can help keep our cities cool and safe.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less