Simple Experiments Show How Motion Is Equivalent to Heat

The specific heat capacity (C) is the amount of energy it takes to change 1 kilogram of the material by 1 degree Celsius. Different materials have different thermal properties (water is not the same as copper), so they have different values of C. Oh, and just because we are going to need it soon, the specific heat capacity for water is 4,184 joules per kilogram per degree Celsius. For copper it’s 385 J/kg/°C (yes, water is crazy high).

So, here’s what I’m going to do. It’s similar to the joule experiment, but also slightly different. Instead of a paddle that interacts with water, I have two copper cups that rub against each other. It looks like this.

Rhett Allain

The bottom cup is held stationary, and the top cup spins and rubs against the bottom cup, causing friction. Some water is added into the top cup so that the temperature can be measured. A string wrapped around the top cup goes over a pulley to a vertical hanging mass. As the mass moves down, it spins the cup. Then I just need to calculate the change in gravitational energy (based on the height) and the change in thermal energy (for the cups and the water).

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There is a temperature sensor in the water and also a rotational motion sensor on the pulley. This means I can continuously record both the distance the mass moves and the temperature. Here is what my setup looks like. Oh, there is a mass and a wood plate on top to keep it all together.

Rhett Allain

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