Room temperature refers to the temperature of what is considered to be a 'normal' room. The possibility that your room may be just above freezing or a sauna is irrelevant.

Physicists usually consider room temperature to be between 21°C and 23°C (294 to 296 Kelvin or 70°F to 74°F), with the implicit assumption that the room's air pressure is close to standard pressure. In practice, many physics experiments are not particularly temperature sensitive — in a laboratory report, "at room temperature" usually means "no effort was made to control the temperature because it is not considered to be a significant source of experimental error".

The standard room used by chemists can be slightly warmer. Many European chemical data sheets list properties of materials at 25°C (298K or 77°F) and one atmosphere. Again, though, "at room temperature" implies a lack of specific temperature controls beyond, perhaps, basic air conditioning or a radiator on a thermostat.

When it comes to wine, things get considerably trickier. It is well known that most red wine should be served at room temperature. However, the room in question here is not your kitchen or dining room; rather, it refers to the temperature of your wine cellar. The archetypical wine cellar is underneath the house, has stone walls and is not directly heated to the same degree as rooms that are for living.

To complicate things further, different grapes and styles of wine are best stored and served at different temperatures. For Bordeaux reds and higher quality new world wines made from merlot or shiraz / syrah, 'room temperature' is around 18°C. For Burgundy reds and lighter new world wines, it is between 15°C and 17°C. For Anjou and Beaujolais reds, room temperature can be as low as 12°C.

For food, room temperature is the temperature reached by food when it has been left to stand for a length of time, often after either cooling or heating. A good metric is chocolate-based desserts. If they melt, your room is probably too warm; if they are hard and crunchy, your room may be too cold.

For those making toys, furniture or other household goods, room temperature must cover a far broader range. Realistically, a household room could be anywhere from ten degrees below freezing up to around 50°C. Many safety standards require that a product does not melt, catch fire, explode, shatter or otherwise suffer damage throughout this temperature range.

Room temperature should not be confused with ambient temperature, which is even less specific. Ambient temperature can be used when conducting experiments outdoors in mild climates — again, the assumption is that the experiment in question is not particularly temperature sensitive.

The second novel by Nicholson Baker, Room Temperature covers the ruminations and reflections of a father during his daughter's afternoon bottle. From that simple locus the narrator unravels his complex relationship with his wife, his connection to defunct practices and mores, and the way in which his life has culminated in the birth of his daughter. Baker's prose doesn't flow, it erupts, covering one man's existence with a patina of nostalgia.

The best element of the novel is the narrarator's unfolding of he and his wife's emotional histology. His description of both of their attempts to bridge the gap of interest to the other's intellectual fetishes vibrates the way only true things can. Upon reading about his fascination with the color celadon, I rushed to the library to discover it for myself. The writing literally moved me.

One valid criticism is that the novel is too short, that it never fully unfolds. After reading The Fermata and The Mezzanine, the reader is assured that Baker has more to say; why he doesn't is not clear. Also, the beauty of the writing makes it decidely unreadable in parts. It is difficult to glide over Baker's prose without stopping to marvel at a particularly well-polished passage. This is in addition to Baker's highly stylized vocabulary, sprinkled with Joycean syntactical oddities.

Room Temperature is a fine novel, full of depth, wit, and importance. It is one of the best I have read in quite some time. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys literature, and will probably spend the remainder of my life buying copies to give as gifts.

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