"I once came across a pack of ice cream among some samples"

Jakob Schöttner researches weak snow layers in the cold chamber. In this interview, he explains why his work there is particularly gruelling during a heatwave.

Mr. Schöttner, while Switzerland is enduring a heatwave, you get to work in a cold chamber at minus twenty degrees. It sounds like the ideal retreat!

Not really, unfortunately. Quite the reverse. When it's hot outside, the temperature difference compared with the cold chamber is up to fifty degrees Celsius. It's especially bad when the humidity is high. The warm air hitting you when you go outside feels like a hot hair dryer. I wear glasses and they mist up every time I leave a cold chamber. But that's not the worst effect.

What else is there?

The temperature differences, and particularly the rapid temperature changes, are really physically exhausting – especially if you don't want to take off the cold protection suit every time you transport samples between the different cold chambers. That involves walking along the corridor, where the temperature is much warmer. When I leave the laboratory building, not wearing a protective suit of course, things get even more extreme. Not only is the temperature higher outdoors, but the direct sunlight makes it feel even hotter. So after a few hours in the cold lab, you've really had enough. Concentrated office work is often out of the question then.  

On the other hand, it's easy for you to store ice cream or other refreshments in your workplace to enjoy during a break – or even prepare something yourself.

Nice idea, but no. We work with chemicals in the lab, so food isn't allowed in. Actually, I did once come across a pack of ice cream, but fortunately it was well sealed and stored in a safe place among samples from the Antarctic. Even so, we removed it immediately of course!



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