Melting with Metal

Now you’re probably thinking, what the heck does that video have to do with my title, and in fact, what the heck does my title mean?  Well, that’s what I though, too, until I actually thought about it.  The video above talks about the concept of sweating, which is the human way of surviving in hot temperatures, comparable to the panting of dogs.  It serves to cool a person’s skin (and the surrounding atmosphere) from the hot external temperature. What really made this interesting was its connection to the activity we did in class today.  We felt a block of metal and a block of plastic.  The plastic felt warmer, and was lighter, but we knew that both blocks had achieved the same temperature by being kept in the same environment for the same amount of time.  However, when we put a piece of ice on top of each, the ice melted much faster on top of the metal block.  Why was this?  Well, the most important advantage that metal has over plastic that I know about is that it is a conductor of electricity.  That means it’s probably also a conductor of other types of energy (i.e. thermal energy from its surroundings).  If the metal is able to conduct more thermal energy into the ice from its surroundings than plastic, the ice is going to melt much faster. Though at this point this makes metal seem like a better option for building a structure that will be able to maintain its temperature, plastic is more capable of doing this.  The reason is that this also means that metal will heat up the inside of the structure when it gets heated, whereas, since the plastic was relatively unaffected (and didn’t affect) by the ice, it will be more resistant to outside thermal energy.  I’ll be continuing my research with this, so come back for more!

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