MARTY RUSSELL: Please explain dog days to the cat

By Marty Russell/NEMS Daily Journal

Depending on whose calendar you’re using, we’re almost to the end of the dog days of summer, that period of extreme heat the ancient Romans attributed to the dog star Sirius which rose in conjunction with the sun and which they believed added to its heat. Astronomically speaking, that conjunction ends by mid August although scientists have long since dismissed the notion that Sirius contributes to the summer heat.
Dogs aside, I’m still trying to find the answer to a question I posed about this time last year which is, what’s the boiling point of a cat? The only answer I could find was that if it’s too hot outside for you, it’s too hot for your cat.
Somebody tell that to the cat. My two dogs are only too happy to spend the day inside in the air conditioning under a ceiling fan that’s spinning almost as fast as my electric meter. Ditto for two of the three cats. But Godzilla, the oldest and smallest of our pets, insists on not only being out in the heat but working in it as well. Monday he dragged up a mouse out of the field that he had either killed or found dead from a heat stroke.
The heat obviously hasn’t boiled him yet but I’m afraid it has fried his tiny little cat brain. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot outside folks. So hot rumor has it the devil has put extra guards on the gates of hell to keep people from coming in to cool off. The National Weather Service reported that Memphis set a record high low, if there is such a thing, Sunday night when the temperature didn’t drop below 82. The previous record was 80 in 1980.
I haven’t tried to fry the proverbial egg on the sidewalk yet mostly because I’m afraid it would be hard boiled by the time I made it to the sidewalk. But it wouldn’t surprise me if you could cook an entire side of beef out there.
There’s not much we can do about it except stay inside and stay hydrated and the usual precautions like checking on the elderly and pets (except Godzilla) and avoiding anything strenuous (my speciality). But while sitting in the air conditioning watching the plants melt outside, I did wonder about how hot it would have to get to get really freaky.
Water, of course, boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which I think we’re predicted to hit this weekend. Liquid helium has the lowest boiling point at minus 452 degrees while tungsten has the highest, 10,220 degrees. The temperature at which gasoline will spontaneously ignite is 475 degrees. For paper its 424 degrees.
If this heat continues, it could get interesting. I already have a seat prepared by the window to watch the pond boil.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at

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