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Frostbite Theater

Science at Home - Cold Stuff!

Can you tell which materials are good at blocking the flow of heat? An activity sheet is available to help you!

Announcer: Frostbite Theater presents... Cold Cuts! No baloney!

Joanna and Steve: Just science!

Joanna: Hi! I'm Joanna!

Steve: And I'm Steve!

Joanna: And this is a 'Science at Home' edition of Frostbite Theater that you can do along with us! Just download the worksheet from our website or you can record your data on a piece of paper!

Today, we're going to be testing different materials to see which is the best insulator for heat.

Steve: If a material is a good insulator for heat, it'll stop heat from moving around.

Now, they're three ways that heat can move: conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction happens when a hot thing and a cold thing touch and the heat moves directly from the hot thing to the cold thing.

Joanna: Convection is when a heated fluid, like air or water, moves away from a source of heat because of a change in density. Think of hot air rising and cold air sinking.

Steve: And radiation is the movement of heat by the emission of electromagnetic waves, like how heat gets here from the sun.

Joanna: We have three containers filled with three materials. The first container is filed with cotton. The second container is filled with steel wool. And the third is filled with air.

Steve: We'll put each container into a bowl filled with 500 milliliters of ice water for 5 minutes, and we'll measure the temperature every 30 seconds. If the material is a good insulator, the temperature inside the container will change slowly. If it's a bad insulator, it'll change quickly.

Joanna: Before we begin, take a second to form a hypothesis. Which material to you think will insulate the best? Have you ever wanted to protect yourself from heat? Or, have you ever wanted to keep your heat from leaking away? What did you use and what were the materials like?

Steve: And, before we begin, you'll want to record the initial temperatures. It's hard to tell how much they change if we don't know where they started.

Also, to make things easier, we'll freeze the video every 30 seconds. We won't freeze it for long, though, so you'll probably want to pause it for yourself until you've taken the readings.

Joanna: So, if you're ready...





Steve: So, what did you find? Were there any surprises? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Joanna: Thanks for watching! I hope you'll join us again soon for another experiment!

Steve: Yeah, this really isn't the right weather to be wearing extra insulation.

Joanna: You're telling me?!


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For questions about this page, please contact Steve Gagnon.