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Dear Dr. Staff: How do air-conditioners work? My Uncle Smiley said that they use some complex process called "warmodynamics" or something like that, but I didn't understand what he meant. I asked my dad, and he said that there's these huge underground tanks that store cold air in the winter, and all the air conditioner does is blow it out in the summer. But this sounds suspicious, because I don't see where the tank could be on a car air conditioner. What is the real answer?

--Thermal Inquisitor

Dear Avian: Air-conditioners seem complicated at first, but they're really quite simple. There is no huge tank-they just work off electricity. Basically, electricity is composed of these things called electrons. And when something is hot, all that means is that its atoms are moving faster than they were when it was cold. So air-conditioners work by sucking in a bunch of air, and then carefully taking the electrons from the power cord and hurling them at just the right time at the atoms, just like a game of marbles, so that the electrons hitting the atoms make them stop vibrating so much. Then, when the air atoms are moving slower (and so they're also colder), the air-conditioner blows them out. That's why air conditioners use more electricity on hot days than cold days, too.

--Thermodynamics Expert

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