People have followed examples set by animals for ages. For instance, the design of our winter parka imitates the ways that various animals stay warm. The muskrat, for example, has to stay warm in icy water and in the cold air, so it grows double layers of thick fur. The fluffy, inner coat traps warm air and keeps it close to the muskrat. The long, outer guard hairs are waterproof, so the muskrat stays warm and dry even when there's ice in the water. Whales and seals depend on a thick layer of body fat called blubber to keep them warm in the cold New England seas. The blubber on a large whale can be up to 24 inches thick. It is almost impossible for the cold to get through the blubber and chill the whale. (Thick fur and blubber are two ways that some animals stay warm. But people have another way of beating the cold: sipping hot cocoa!)

Do It Yourself

To learn how blubber works, make a "blubber mitt" and see how it protects from the cold.

Materials

  • Make a Blubber Mitt and see how it protects from the coldOne cup solid shortening
  • Two zip-top sandwich bags
  • Duct tape

Directions

Put one cup of of shortening into a ziptop bag.

Put your hand into the empty ziptop bag.

Put your hand with the bag on it into the bag containing the shortening.

Keeping your hand in the first bag, squeeze and spread the shortening until it surrounds your hand like an oven mitt. (Take care to keep your hands dry.)

To make sure the shortening doesn't escape, seal the tops of the bags together with duct tape.

Put the mitt on and test it out by sticking the protected hand in a bucket of snow or ice water. The "blubber" in the mitt will protect your hand from the cold. Hold an ice cube in the palm of the mitt. Can you feel the cold?