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Elementary Science Education

Calories vs Degrees/Temperature

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    • #8400


      My kids and I are working through the Atomic Molecular Motion lessons and have a question about calories (presented in A-12).

      They asked me why we don’t set our oven to “X calories” but, instead, to “X degrees”. Can you clarify the difference/relationship between calories (a measure of heat energy) and degrees (a measure of temperature). Any insight you can provide would be appreciated! Thanks!

    • #8402

      Bernard Nebel

      Hi Sandy
      Thanks for your question.
      Think of calories as a total amount, and temperature as a “rate of flow”. For example, consider roasting a chicken. Suppose it takes one hour at 350 degrees. Temperature is obviously the 350 degrees, but that might go on for any length of time. A measure of calories would include the time, that is the total amount of heat expended by the oven to keep it at 350 degrees for one hour.
      To use an analogy, think of heat as water flowing from a faucet. Temperature is analogous to the rate of flow. Calories are analogous to the total amount of water drawn.
      I hope this helps. Please ask further as you wish. 
      Dr. Bernie Nebel

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