Volume 37, Issue 9, September 2002
Muntins: A View from Outer Space
by A. Space Martian
Editors note: This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Alpha-Centauri Times, written by one of its space-traveling correspondents.
A funny thing happened to me after I landed on Planet Earth. For a landing site I selected a continent the locals referred to as “North America.” Coming directly from Alpha Centauri I was somewhat jet-lagged and did not pay too much attention to what I saw at first. But soon I was intrigued by the funny- looking grids the Earthlings put in their windows. Incidentally, windows are relatively large openings enclosed with glass, designed to let light in, to see out and to protect from the seasonal elements. And into those glass-covered openings they put grids. Wherever I went, I saw grids and more grids. This was so strange to me that I had to find out more. I was on a mission!
My stay on Earth was for only five years, but I still had the opportunity to talk to several million Earthlings about those grids they call “muntins.”
The first and most obvious thing I noticed was that muntins do obstruct the view. I learned that most muntins are made of a metallic substance known for its ability to conduct heat really well. Therefore, muntins are installed presumably to balance and offset the heat insulation achieved with sophisticated glasses and spacers. I started to think that I was discovering a puzzling system, designed to hold progress within limits.
Unrelated to this I gathered that some muntins emit a vapor when irradiated intensively by the sun, and that vapor then deposits on the glass. I was told this happens when the maker fixes up muntin material that was damaged. I did not find out if these were the same or different makers that installed muntins, which emit a noise during high winds.
Probing deeper into this subject I was made aware of the fact that most makers don’t really like muntins. It’s just one more headache that needs to be managed and costs money. Interestingly, I found out that many makers put gas in the space between the glasses to improve the insulating properties of the glass units. However, with muntins in that space gas filling becomes difficult and less efficient. Again, there appears to be a system in place to keep the efforts for improvement in check.
What always eluded me was the real reason Earthlings put those muntins in their windows. However, I did receive concrete confirmation that they do it absolutely voluntarily—in fact, they even pay money for it. The only places where I discovered grid-like attachments installed in windows without the consent of the occupants were in buildings referred to as “correctional institutions.”
Toward the end of my stay I developed a feeling for what the Earthlings call “psychology.” I started to think that those muntins may recall subliminally the pampered comfort Earthlings experienced during their very early formative years, when placed in a playpen. However, I had no opportunity to test that theory.
While on Planet Earth I learned a lot. But even after five years and talking to millions, I had to leave without ever finding out why the Earthlings put those muntins in their windows.
The news story continues with unrelated topics. However it ends with an interesting observation. Earthlings do not routinely consider space travel today. However, if and when they do, we should be able to easily recognize them, as their spaceships will quite likely have muntins in the windows.
Food for thought?
A. Space Martian is a space-traveling correspondent for the Alpha-Centauri Times. Can you guess who he masquerades as on earth? e-mail email@example.com.
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