The Science Scoop

By Will Owen /// Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered why metal feels colder to the touch than other stuff?

Our instincts say that it’s because the metal is colder than other objects, but science tells us this isn’t the case, ya dingus!

When you enter a room, everything is roughly the same temperature. You put one hand on a metal chair and one hand on a wooden desk. Although they’re both equally tepid, the metal chair feels colder to you. This is because of the friendly property of matter called heat capacity.

Metal has a lower heat capacity than other objects. In other words, metals generally conduct heat very well. Part of this has to do with their high density (those atoms are seriously close), and part of it is related to the way metal atoms stick together and stay friends. Because they’re such a tight-knit family, when one atom is excited — imagine him jumping around and wiggin’ out — his neighbors get bumped against, and the excitement spreads through the material like a chain reaction.

When your hand touches the metal, those atoms suck the energy out of your hand, distributing it throughout all of the atoms.

With the metal sucking all that energy so fast, your nerves tell you to watch out for that cold thing. On the other hand, the molecules that are in a wooden desk are lagging in excitement, so it feels like room temperature instead.

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