Simple Q: Does Fanning Yourself Make You Hotter?

July 14, 2011 | By | Comments (0)

That is the simple yet vexing question I was asking myself on the subway platform last night.

The air felt like I’d entered into a windless broiler and people all around me were using any scrap of paper or soggy magazine to fan themselves while we waited the looooong 7 minutes until the next train arrived.

And while any sort of breeze certainly did feel good—you know you’re hot when the gust of air from the passing express train is heavenly—I hestitated to move one inch of my body for fear of generating heat. No way was I about to risk more sweating by waving a fan around.

So what’s the deal? Does fanning yourself make sense? Much like I’ve heard that eating celery is one of those things that burns more calories than that actual item contains (technically, yes!) I’ve also heard that by using the energy to move a piece of paper back and forth, you might just be making yourself hotter.

So, once I made it home and sat in front of the blasting air conditioner for five minutes, I did some digging.

The answer, according to the curious, thorough, and equation-happy writer Cecil Adams, from The Straight Dope, isn’t as simply as a yes or no. The best they can say is that because of the variables involved, it’s hard to say. Pfft. (I’ll spare you the rather obtuse, lengthy, and VERY scientific calculations.)

Apparently, things like humidity, your personal basal metabolic rate, the actual velocity of the air you’re moving with your wee little fan, and a host of other things can affect the outcome.

Oh well. At least while I was there I was able to learn exactly WHY the sound of nails on a blackboard is so universally loathed and WHY I tend to sneeze when I emerge into bright sunlight. And I’m amused by the site’s cheeky tagline: “Fighting Ignorance Since 1973 (It’s Taking Longer Than We Thought.”

Stay cool!