1. Value of Fire
Every day, uncontrolled fire wipes out human lives and destroys vast amounts of property; every day, fire, controlled and regulated in stove and furnace, cooks our food and warms our houses. Fire melts ore and allows of the forging of iron, as in the blacksmith's shop, and of the fashioning of innumerable objects serviceable to man. Heated boilers change water into the steam which drives our engines on land and sea. Heat causes rain and wind, fog and cloud; heat enables vegetation to grow and thus indirectly provides our food. Whether heat comes directly from the sun or from artificial sources such as coal, wood, oil, or electricity, it is vitally connected with our daily life, and for this reason the facts and theories relative to it are among the most important that can be studied. Heat, if properly regulated and controlled, would never be injurious to man; hence in the following paragraphs heat will be considered merely in its helpful capacity.
2. General Effect of Heat
: Expansion and Contraction
. One of the best-known effects of heat is the change which it causes in the size of a substance. Every housewife knows that if a kettle is filled with cold water to begin with, there will be an overflow as soon as the water becomes heated. Heat causes not only water, but all other liquids, to occupy more space, or to expand, and in some cases the expansion, or increase in size, is surprisingly large. For example, if 100 pints of ice water is heated in a kettle, the 100 pints will steadily expand until, at the boiling point, it will occupy as much space as 104 pints of ice water.
The expansion of water can be easily shown by heating a flask filled with water and closed by a cork through which a narrow tube passes. As the water is heated, it expands and forces its way up the narrow tube. If the heat is removed, the liquid cools, contracts, and slowly falls in the tube, resuming in time its original size or volume. A similar observation can be made with alcohol, mercury, or any other convenient liquid.
Not only liquids are affected by heat and cold, but solids also are subject to similar changes. A metal ball which when cool will just slip through a ring will, when heated, be too large to slip through the ring. Telegraph and telephone wires which in winter are stretched taut from pole to pole, sag in hot weather and are much too long. In summer they are exposed to the fierce rays of the sun, become strongly heated, and expand sufficiently to sag. If the wires were stretched taut in the summer, there would not be sufficient leeway for the contraction which accompanies cold weather, and in winter they would snap.
Air expands greatly when heated, but since air is practically invisible, we are not ordinarily conscious of any change in it. The expansion of air can be readily shown by putting a drop of ink in a thin glass tube, inserting the tube in the cork of a flask, and applying heat to the flask. The ink is forced up the tube by the expanding air. Even the warmth of the hand is generally sufficient to cause the drop to rise steadily in the tube. The rise of the drop of ink shows that the air in the flask occupies more space than formerly, and since the quantity of air has not changed, each cubic inch of space must hold less warm air than| it held of cold air; that is, one cubic inch of warm air weighs less than one cubic inch of cold air, or warm air is less dense than cold air. All gases, if not confined, expand when heated and contract as they cool. Heat, in general, causes substances to expand or become less dense.
FIG. -As the water becomes warmer it expands and rise in the narrow tube.
FIG. - When the ball is heated, it become too large to slip through the ring.
FIG. - As the air in A
is heated, it expands and escapes in the form of bubbles.
3. Amount of Expansion and Contraction
While most substances expand when heated and contract when cooled, they are not all affected equally by the same changes in temperature. Alcohol expands more than water, and water more than mercury. Steel wire which measures 1/4 mile on a snowy day will gain 25 inches in length on a warm summer day, and an aluminum wire under the same conditions would gain 50 inches in length.
4. Advantages and Disadvantages of Expansion and Contraction
We owe the snug fit of metal tires and bands to the expansion and contraction resulting from heating and cooling. The tire of a wagon wheel is made slightly smaller than the wheel which it is to protect; it is then put into a very hot fire and heated until it has expanded sufficiently to slip on the wheel. As the tire cools it contracts and fits the wheel closely.
In a railroad, spaces are usually left between consecutive rails in order to allow for expansion during the summer.
The unsightly cracks and humps in cement floors are sometimes due to the expansion resulting from heat. Cracking from this cause can frequently be avoided by cutting the soft cement into squares, the spaces between them giving opportunity for expansion just as do the spaces between the rails of railroads.
In the construction of long wire fences provision must be made for tightening the wire in summer, otherwise great sagging would occur.
Heat plays an important part in the splitting of rocks and in the formation of débris. Rocks in exposed places are greatly affected by changes in temperature, and in regions where the changes in temperature are sudden, severe, and frequent, the rocks are not able to withstand the strain of expansion and contraction, and as a result crack and split. In the Sahara Desert much crumbling of the rock into sand has been caused by the intense heat of the day followed by the sharp frost of night. The heat of the day causes the rocks to expand, and the cold of night causes them to contract, and these two forces constantly at work loosen the grains of the rock and force them out of place, thus producing crumbling.
The surface of the rock is the most exposed part, and during the day the surface, heated by the sun's rays, expands and becomes too large for the interior, and crumbling and splitting result from the strain. With the sudden fall of temperature in the late afternoon and night, the surface of the rock becomes greatly chilled and colder than the rock beneath; the surface rock therefore contracts and shrinks more than the underlying rock, and again crumbling results.
On bare mountains, the heating and cooling effects of the sun are very striking; the surface of many a mountain peak is covered with cracked rock so insecure that a touch or step will dislodge the fragments and start them down the mountain slope. The lower levels of mountains are frequently buried several feet under débris which has been formed in this way from higher peaks, and which has slowly accumulated at the lower levels.
FIG. - As the air in A
is heated, it expands and forces the drop of ink up the tube.
FIG. A cement walk broken by expansion due to sun heat.
FIG. - Splitting and crumbling of rock caused by alternating heat and cold.
FIG. - Debris formed from crumbled rock.
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When an object feels hot to the touch, we say that it has a high temperature; when it feels cold to the touch, that it has a low temperature; but we are not accurate judges of heat. Ice water seems comparatively warm after eating ice cream, and yet we know that ice water is by no means warm. A room may seem warm to a person who has been walking in the cold air, while it may feel decidedly cold to some one who has come from a warmer room. If the hand is cold, lukewarm water feels hot, but if the hand has been in very hot water and is then transferred to lukewarm water, the latter will seem cold. We see that the sensation or feeling of warmth is not an accurate guide to the temperature of a substance; and yet until 1592, one hundred years after the discovery of America, people relied solely upon their sensations for the measurement of temperature. Very hot substances cannot be touched without injury, and hence inconvenience as well as the necessity for accuracy led to the invention of the thermometer, an instrument whose operation depends upon the fact that most substances expand when heated and contract when cooled.