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Question Video: Explaining the Accuracy of Temperature Readings from Thermometers Physics

Do the temperatures of objects measured by thermometers necessarily correspond accurately to the perceived hotness or coldness of these objects produced by contact between the skin and these objects?

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Video Transcript

Do the temperatures of objects measured by thermometers necessarily correspond accurately to the perceived hotness or coldness of these objects produced by contact between the skin and these objects?

This question is asking us how accurately we can measure the temperature of different objects just by touching them. If we touch an object and feel or perceive that it is hot or cold, is this as accurate as measuring the temperature of the object with a thermometer?

We know that we can feel how hot an object is if we touch it. For example, holding a freshly made cup of tea in one hand and a cup of icy water in the other hand, we would be able to tell which one was which without looking. The tea would feel hot, while the icy water would feel cold. This is because there’s a big difference between the temperature of each object. The tea feels hotter than the icy water because the temperature of the tea is far greater.

But, if someone asked what the exact temperature of each drink was, it would be difficult to come up with an answer. We might be able to make an estimate, but it would be impossible to know for sure exactly what the temperature of each drink was just by holding them. If we want to know the exact value of each drink’s temperature, we would have to use a thermometer.

Our perception of temperature can be affected by other things. For example, imagine getting into a cold swimming pool on a warm day. At first, the water will feel very cold because its temperature is lower than that of the air we were just in. However, after staying in the pool for long enough, we would get used to the temperature of the water, and it wouldn’t feel so cold anymore. The actual temperature of the water hasn’t changed. It is always the same. But our perception of this temperature has changed.

So, the answer to this question is no. The hotness or coldness that we perceive when we touch an object does not necessarily accurately correspond to the temperature of the object measured by a thermometer.

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