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A long time ago (a couple of hundreds of years), people could make a refrigerator by applying a certain procedure with pieces of ice, harvested in winter, and other stuff. The ice hadn´t molten at the end of the summer. The knowledge the people had in those old days was empirical, but nonetheless, it was knowledge (only the how of the process wasn't known, but that doesn´t mean it wasn't real knowledge).

Attempts to reproduce this procedure in our times all failed. The ice was molten after a few weeks. Why can those ice houses not be reconstructed in our time (the article in Mother Earth News mentioned below just repeats the empirical procedure used in the old days, but attempts to make them "out of the blue" all failed))? Don't we know in these modern days what processes take place exactly to keep a piece of ice frozen for the whole summer without looking at how it was done in the old days, apart from the fact that it's not necessary anymore because of refrigerators?

In other words, why can't we use non-empirical (as opposed to the empirical science long ago) science to construct (behind the design table) these old fashioned ice-houses? Is the process too complex?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    May 11, 2016 at 8:41

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The basis for constructing a working ice house is described in The First Icehouse in America?

The fundamentals are: a large mass of ice; good drainage, an environment with constant temperature. Insulation of the ice with saw dust or straw helps to slow the melting, but it must be kept dry, which requires good drainage.

You would obtain a better discussion on the History of Mathematics and Science stack.

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This article appeared in Mother Earth News in olden days (1972!) and discusses ways to build an ice house for cool storage and how to harvest the ice with which to fill the house once its completed:

How to Build an Ice House

Of course, ice houses work better in some areas due to the local climate. An ice house would be a worthwhile project in Vermont, say, while it would be doomed to failure if constructed in Death Valley.

Ice houses had their day, because there was nothing else to compete with for storing perishable items. Once mechanical refrigeration became practical, then the art of constructing ice houses fell into decline, but it was not lost completely.

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