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Posted by on Aug 6, 2013 in Physical Chemistry, General Science | 0 comments

Physical Chemistry—hotness and coldness

When I start into heat capacity I contrast the temperature of a substance with the feeling of hot and cold. A thermometer will tell you the temperature of a substance, but that does not tell you how much heat is present. If you touch something, you can tell if it is hotter or colder than your hand, but what about two substances at the same temperature?

Suppose outside it is -10 C (14 F) and there you find a piece of steel and a piece of Styrofoam. Which is colder? If you touch the steel it feels colder than the Styrofoam, but they are both at the same temperature. If you placed the steel on the Styrofoam, no heat will flow between them (Third Law of thermodynamics). Since your hand is much hotter than the objects, heat must flow from your hand into them.

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