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I was walking behind a little boy, toddling along being a little boy. At one point, he looked up at his father and said "It's cold, just like in the fridge." You could see the gears turning inside his head, and in a few minutes he asked "Daddy, why is the fridge cold inside?".
I didn't hear the father's reply, but it got me to thinking. The fridge evolved from the icebox which emanated from the experiments of Sir Francis Bacon and a Dr. Winterbourne. Apparently Bacon was convinced that snow would preserve a chicken. While they were driving in a carriage, they stopped at a farm house, and Bacon bought a chicken, had it killed and used his bare hands to stuff it with snow to preserve it. Legend maintains that because of the demonstration, he caught a cold and a few days later, died from the cold, and the fridge was born. This is the only case in history where Chicken beats Bacon,
Cold is used to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Before electrification of households, ice used to be harvested from bodies of water in the winter, stored in ice houses and delivered to iceboxes during the summer. Other than getting an electric cold-maker from the compression of freon and other CFCs or chlorofluorocarbons that chew up the ozone layer and give us all cancer, fridges haven't changed in abstract theory from the iceboxes.
If I had to design a fridge of the future, I would do away with the cold component. I got the idea while watching a "How It's Made" show on TV where they were making bacteria-free scalpel blades for surgery. I realize by writing this, that I am putting the idea into the public domain, making it unpatentable, but that's okay with me. I like open source technology initiatives.
There would still be some refrigeration in the house, otherwise we would have to drink all of our beer at room temperature like the British and all end up with bad teeth. Also, we need to keep our ice cream solid. However for the non-freezing preservation of food, we could do without the cold. How you ask?
First of all, the fridge would be a positive-pressure device. That means that the air pressure in the fridge is slightly elevated, so when you open the door, the air would rush out and it wouldn't draw kitchen bacteria into the fridge. And the light that goes on -- well, it's a bacteria-killing ultraviolet light. To minimize human contact, the fridge would not only be built with a window, so you could turn on the light and look inside without opening it, Also, the built in tablet (connected to the internet of course) could also tell you that you are running low on milk. After all, we will have the internet of everything, and the built-in tablet will keep track of contents and expiry dates.
But that isn't the clever bit. The way that you obviate the need for cold, is twice a day, the fridge locks the doors so that no one can open them accidentally and irradiates all of the food killing the germs and preserving the food. This happens in less than 30 seconds, and the shot of bacteria-killer rays will still preserve freshness without chilling.
I know that some people will say that this creates frankenfood, but that is pseudo-science. They said that about the microwave oven as well, and now a microwave oven graces most kitchens.
Not only would this preserve the food, but you could throw in your grungy dish clothes into a freezer bag, and wait for the next germ-zapping cycle and they would be fresh as new-fallen snow. And you could sterilize your scalpel blades after you do the exercises in "The Dummy's Guide to Self-Surgery".