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Specific Heat of Water vs. Specific Heat of Sand
Your feet may already know what specific heat is: Your toes felt nice and cool in the ocean on a summer day. Then, you decided to walk barefoot to the ice cream stand. The sand was much warmer than the ocean. The last part of the walk was the paved parking lot. Ouch! That black asphalt was hot. Your feet made you promise to throw on some flip flops next time.
Why, on the same day, are the temperatures of water, sand, and asphalt so different? Specific heat is the key. Specific heat is how much heat energy is needed raise the temperature of a substance. Water has a very high specific heat. That means it needs to absorb a lot of energy before its temperature changes. Sand and asphalt, on the other hand, have lower specific heats. This means that their temperatures change more quickly. When the summer sun shines down on them, they quickly become hot. In this experiment, you will use a light to add heat to samples of sand and water. Using a thermometer, you will be able to measure how much the temperature of each changes in a given amount of time.
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