I was watching the show Snowpiercer on Netflix and it’s basically about about the last of humanity in a train that is constantly moving on tracks around the frozen earth. The earth temperature average is $-133^\circ\ C$. They say if the train stops moving (comes to a full stop) they will freeze to death within $13$ minutes if they don’t get going again.

My question: is there some sort of theorem or physics law that states you need to be moving X fast in order to avoid freezing at this temperature? I tried to search this but I am no scientist so I don’t have the proper knowledge nor terminology. Thank you.


Basically? No. Netflix doesn't worry too much about real physics.

In fact, in virtually all situations, the faster you go the more you are going to cool down because you move more cold air past you.

The one place where you would see a real issue regarding this would be condensation. If the train is substantially warmer than the outside air, it can permit substances (like water) to remain in the air. Once it cools down, it freezes. If it freezes in the wrong places (like on the wheels), this can create a situation where the wheels can't move unless they get warmed up. If they have no way of warming them up other than the rolling friction from traveling, then they could actually get permanently stuck. A similar issue can occur in lubricating and cooling fluids. If they can't flow, then the engine can seize unless they are warmed to operating temperatures first.

For a sense of this effect, consider rime ice and glaze ice, which are real meteorological situations. Rime ice can grow to unbounded sizes, so can easily break things with the sheer weight of the ice. And, from experience, glaze ice is freaking scary to walk on.

Rime Ice. SOURCE: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Glaze Ice. SOURCE: Wikipedia

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