I’m reading The Memorist by M. J. Rose, a book which is in the same 100+ chapter genre as The DaVinci Code but which doesn’t sport its own diet.
Early on, some criminal-guy leads some journalist-terrorist-wanna-be to an underground area beneath Vienna. After showing him the area beneath the main concert hall, they head back towards the outside world only to discover slashes in one of their rafts — a raft that might have looked a lot like the one in the picture above except that it was in a cave. And was inflatable.
But at any rate, they needed those rafts because there was an underground lake that was really hot. Now here’s the confusing part:
The water was thirty percent hotter than the human body’s temperature thanks to the geothermal heat under the lake’s bed. If you tried to swim across you’d be boiled to death.
What, exactly, does 30% hotter than the human body’s temp mean? My first thought was that the reference point should be absolute zero, or -459.7°F. This would make the water (1.3)(98.6+459.7)-459.7, which simplifies to about 266°F. This matches the line about scalding, but doesn’t quite fit later on when journalist-guy pulls the remaining raft from criminal-guy and dunks him into the water:
For a second David wondered if Wassong could somehow make it out. No, he knew that was impossible. He knew, because Wassong had warned him — no one survived the firewater. Wassong was splashing wildly, displacing a circle of water around him. He continued thrashing for fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, forty, and then all movement ceased. Hans Wassong lay still, floating facedown in the boiling lake, his glasses bobbing beside him.
Despite the reference to boiling, I’m pretty sure that splashing would be kept to a minimum if the water were really 266°F. So I don’t think that’s it. Maybe, since we’re in Vienna, we’re supposed to use Celsius for our reference point. The body’s temperature is 37°C, so the lake would then be (1.3)(37°C)=48.1°C, or about 118.6°F. That’s hot, but not really hot enough to kill so quickly — the Honeywell Burn Chart says an adult could swim for 10 minutes before getting 3rd degree burns. So that’s not it.
Well then, maybe we should use Fahrenheit, which would lead to (1.3)(98.6°F), or about 128°F. Now we’re getting somewhere: the 40 seconds corresponds pretty much exactly to how long before criminal-guy gets 3rd degree burns all over his body, and that’s going to make it tough for him to escape.
I confess, I’ve been waiting to see if this guy is really dead or if he’s going to appear at the last minute. Nothing says, “See ya later!” like a claim that no one could have survived.