This 5-minute YouTube video, hosted by physicist Derek Muller, aims to debunk specific misconceptions held by most people about heat and temperature. Dr. Muller uses an inquiry-based approach to explore the scientific meaning of heat transfer by examining whether our touch receptors are reliable gauges of heat and temperature. The opening question: “Which is hotter, a metal hard drive or a paperback book?” (Both had been left outdoors for 4 hours). Every participant answered incorrectly. All were sure the hard drive was a colder temperature because it “feels so much colder”. An infrared thermometer showed that both objects were the same temperature. Next, Dr. Muller baked a cake. He asked participants to guess whether the cake tin or the cake itself would have a hotter temperature when he took it out of the oven. Again, all participants answered incorrectly, saying the cake tin would be much hotter. And again, the infrared thermometer showed the temperatures to be almost identical. At the end of the video, Dr. Muller explains the science behind the phenomenon. The video addresses two widely-held misconceptions:
1) Misconception 1: Human touch receptors are an accurate way to gauge temperature (they are not).
2) Misconception 2: Thermal energy is related only to temperature, but not to the material the object is made of. (Actually, an object’s material composition has a significant effect on its ability to transfer thermal energy. Metal objects are excellent conductors; paper and styrofoam are excellent insulators.)