All About Heat!

Heat is described as the transfer, or movement, of energy from a warmer to a cooler object. In our universe, there are tiny particles called atoms that continually vibrate and move around. When atoms bump into one another and move around within a system, heat is produced. The following looks at the subject of heat and things related to heat.

ice melting

Temperature is closely related to the topic of heat. Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that heat and temperature are the same thing. They are different. Heat is the movement of energy while temperature is a measurement of either heat or cold. When some kids think about temperature they envision the thermometer hanging on a window of their home. They may even think about the thermometer that mom uses to take their temperature when they are not feeling well. A thermometer can be used to measure the temperature of many things. Temperature is the measure of heat or cold within an object, environment, or substance. Two examples of opposite temperatures are freezing and boiling. When a liquid reaches a freezing temperature it turns into a solid. For example, you can do an easy freezing experiment by filling an ice cube tray with water and putting the tray into the freezer. After an hour or so, the water will have turned into ice. The liquid became a solid. Alternatively, if you (with an adult's help) put a pot of water onto the stove and turn on the burner beneath it, the water will eventually come to a boil. The freezing temperature for plain water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The boiling temperature of plain water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Other substances have different freezing and boiling temperatures.

Thermal energy is another topic closely related to heat. Thermal energy is created when the atoms within an object or substance are moving around quickly. Thermal energy moves between objects. Temperature changes happen when thermal energy travels between objects.

steaming coffee

We already know that heat is the transfer of energy from a warmer to a cooler object. A simple illustration shows us this definition in action. For example, picture a person pouring coffee from a pot into a coffee cup and putting the cup onto a kitchen table. The steam is pouring out of the top of the cup so we know that the coffee is very hot. As time goes by, the steam starts to slow down, then then eventually stops. What is happening to the coffee as it sits on the table? The heat is escaping or moving out of the cup. It is moving into the cooler air around the cup. In order to get the coffee to heat up again, the person would have to refill it with coffee from the hot coffee pot. Immediately, after putting the coffee cup on the table, the heat would begin transferring (moving) out of the cup into the cooler air surrounding it. In short, in order to enjoy a hot cup of coffee the person would have to drink it fairly quickly after pouring it!

Finally, along with the two simple experiments mentioned above, you can do other easy experiments that may help you to understand the topics of heat and temperature. For instance, taking an ice cube outside on a hot summer day you can observe and record how long it takes for that ice cube to melt on the sidewalk. You can try the experiment again on a cold day in winter and see if the ice cube melts and how long it takes. Oftentimes, by doing simple experiments with the help of adults, you can get a better understanding of heat and temperature.

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