Article Thumbnail

Analyzing the Heat Capacity of Bernie’s Mittens

And their mildly socialist implications, too.

Much has changed since the inauguration of President Joe Biden. A volley of executive orders have been signed. Donald Trump has been uncharacteristically silent. Americans are breathing slightly easier. But despite these major developments, Bernie Sanders’ modest mittens have absolutely apprehended the nation’s attention, even days after he donned them.

You can’t blame the people for their seemingly frivolous preoccupation, though: Most of us have been forced to stand alone through the coronavirus pandemic, blatantly ignored by the government, so the warm, socialist embrace of Bernie’s wrapped hands holds a strong appeal.

The fact that Bernie was wearing mittens, not gloves, on Inauguration Day is instrumental to this pseudo-socialist feeling: When your fingers are given the opportunity to huddle together in one communal covering, they experience a higher degree of warmth than had they been separated by their own individual pieces of fabric. Therefore, when it comes to gloves versus mittens, the latter would almost certainly win in a battle of warmth.

“Mittens are warmer,” confirms Alex Klotz, an assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy at California State University, Long Beach. “With gloves, each finger has its own surface exposed to the cold air through which heat transfers, whereas mittens just have the single surface of your hand, meaning there’s less surface area for approximately the same volume, so heat doesn’t transfer out as quickly. There’s the additional consideration that mittens can have more insulation, because gloves can’t get too thick to allow the dexterity of individual fingers.”

“If you imagine a cross section of a gloved hand, it goes air, fabric, finger, fabric, air, fabric, finger, fabric, air,” Klotz continues. “Each place there’s an air interface, there’s an opportunity to lose heat, whereas with mittens, it’s just air, fabric, finger, finger, finger, finger, fabric, air.”

Of course, this is assuming that all things are equal in terms of fabric, thickness and insulation. Thicker, more insulated gloves may be warmer than thinner, more delicate mittens. Bernie’s mittens are, however, made of recycled wool and lined with fleece, both of which are moisture-resistant and extremely warm, so you can rest easy knowing that Bernie’s hands were indeed nice and cozy on Inauguration Day.

Now that you’re clear on Bernie’s mittens, as he himself recently said, “Fashion? Let’s get to work.”