QUESTION:

What temperature is twice as hot as 0 degrees?

ANSWER:

Short answer: A temperature of 273 Celsius (Centigrade) is twice as hot as 0 degrees Celsius. That is a very tricky question and one that does not lead to an easy explanation.

Part of the complexity is that we typically use two temperature scales, Fahrenheit and Celsius (Centigrade). Also, the temperature can be positive or negative on both temperature scales.

Temperature has to do with how much energy there is in the air. Temperature measures the average molecule motion. That energy of motion is all gone when you get down to a temperature of -273 Celsius, which is -460 degrees Fahrenheit, stated as 460 degrees below zero. This temperature is called “absolute zero”. At absolute zero there is no movement of molecules. There is no heat.

The solution is to choose a meaningful zero point for temperature. Scientist came up with a new temperature scale called the Kelvin scale. This scale is used to calculate the temperature, pressure, and volume of gases.

The Kelvin and Celsius scales are the same, but they start at a different point. Kelvin starts at 0 degrees. Celsius starts at -273 degrees. The rule is K = C +273.

A cold winter day of 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) is 273 Kelvin. A normal body temperature is 98.6 Fahrenheit, and 37 Celsius and 310 Kelvin. Do you feel a fever coming on?

How did we come up with 273 Celsius as an answer to the question posed; what is the temperature that is twice as hot as 0 Celsius? If we double 273 K (0 Celsius), we get 546 degrees Kelvin. That is twice as warm as 0 degrees Celsius. Convert that back to Celsius by subtracting 273 from the Kelvin, and we have 273 Celsius.

While that may be a scientific answer, it does not fit our everyday sense of hot and cold, and how much clothing we should wear to stay warm or how dangerous it is to work in the heat of the day.

So the question is sometimes referred to as a trick question or one that does not have a meaningful answer. Me thinks it just might be a question posed by science teachers to their students to get them to think about heat, cold, temperature, calories, and multiplying by 0 !

If you are traveling by car in the early morning hours, say around 5 AM, you can pick up CBC Radio, 990 AM on the dial, from Winnipeg, Canada. Also, CJBK 1290 AM from London, Ontario in Canada. Both stations come in loud and clear, via “skip”. The radio signals bounce off the ionosphere located high in the heavens.

Of course, our more enlightened neighbors to the North have adopted the metric system and the temperature in their weather reports are given in Celsius. The wind is given in knots, not miles per hour. So there is a neat little limerick to help us Americans “decipher” the temperature:

30 is hot

20 is nice

10 is cool,

and 0 is ice.

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