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2 - 3 - Heat (4_15) 4/24/14, 7:18 PM

Global warming is ultimately about
but have you ever thought about what heat
actually is?
Heat is an expression of the amount of
kinetic energy that the atom have in a
When atoms are moving around very
quickly, that feels
hot to us, and if they're moving very
slowly that feels cold.
Which is amazing
that you can feel that at all because
are such tiny things you can't feel
individual atoms.
You can feel huge,
collections of atoms in a solid
surface like this.
But an individual atom you can't really
And yet, how fast that atom is jiggling --
you can feel that
instantly because, if you touch it the
fast jiggling of the atoms...
will bump up against the atoms of your
skin, and make those jiggle more quickly
And if they jiggle too quickly, they can
actually rip apart
the chemical bonds of your skin, and
that's how you burn yourself.
That's why we
have evolved to be able to sense how fast
the atoms are wiggling around.
So it's like we have little atomic
speedometers in our fingertips, it's
really cool.
It turns out that each mode of motion
of the atoms
contains on average one half kT of
So this is actually how the temperature is
defined, this T is the temperature.
K is the Boltzmann Constant, it's
just a number
you can look up in a book that doesn't
So if you have a gas that consists of
single atoms, not in molecules, like Argon,
single atoms in the air, that
thing is flying around in space.
And because there are three dimensions of
physical space it turns out that
a single atom gas like this will tend to
have one three halves
kT of energy.
One for each of the three dimensions of
physical space.
And then, if you have a Molecule, like
oxygen, one of the main gasses
in our atmosphere, O2, has two atoms,
these two atoms can vibrate relative to
each other.
And so that vibration, sets up another
mode of motion that the
molecule use to can carry heat.
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2 - 3 - Heat (4_15) 4/24/14, 7:18 PM
And the fact that it's now sort of a line
instead of a point, means that it can
rotate as well.
And there are two different
dimensions of rotation of this,
so you get two rotational modes from this
atom as well.
If you think about thermal pane
windows, where the whole point
is to stop heat from being transferred
from the outside to the inside.
The very best thermal pane window that you
could get would have
two panes of glass and then it would have
a vacuum in between.
Because then there'd be nothing, no way
that the jiggling atoms of this
pane of glass could touch the jiggling
of that one and transfer the heat by
Unfortunately, they can't make windows
with a vacuum inside there,
because of all the pressure from the
atmosphere pushing in.
The panes of glass would get
So, what they do instead,
for good windows, they put argon into the,
between the two panes.
Because an atom of Argon, say it goes to the
warm side and picks up
some extra kinetic energy, and then it
goes to the cold side and gives it off.
And that's heat loss from the
window, but the Argon can only carry a
small amount of energy, compared to if you
put oxygen in this pane of glass.
When it comes to the warm side,
it's like a bigger battery, it can carry
more energy.
It goes from the warm side to the cold
side, and it would carry twice as much
Per molecule because it has more modes of