MadSci Network: Earth Sciences


Date: Wed Feb 16 10:05:09 2000
Posted By: Mark Murphy, Staff, Environmental Science Division, Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 950479536.Es

Though I've never tried it, your son could do a simple experiment to show 
which warmed faster.  Take two identical, long thermometers, one in a 
container of soil, one in an identical container of water (perhaps milk 
jugs?).  Freeze them both overnight.  Make sure that the thermometers are 
submerged an equal distance into their respective media and that the 
temperatures can be read above freezing at least.  Monitor and record the 
temperatures at regular intervals throughout the day (at least hourly) 
until room temp is reached.  Then you might place the containers in pans of 
hot water on the stove and continue to monitor temp vs. time.  You would 
have some difficulty keeping the thermometer suspended in water, but it 
could be done.  Then graph the temp vs. time to compare the rates of 
heating.  I would guess that the soil is a better insulator due to air 
pockets and materials, so temperature changes would be slower in soil than 
in water.  This is one reason underground houses save on heating/cooling 

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