Heat is transferred by radiation through electromagnetic waves. Remember, when we talked about waves and energy? Well, heat can be transferred by electromagnetic waves. Energy is vibrating particles that can move by waves over distances right? Well, if those vibrating particles hit something and cause those particles to vibrate (causing them to move faster/increasing their temperature) then heat is being transferred by waves. The type of electromagnetic waves that transfer heat are infra-red waves. The Sun transfers heat to the Earth through radiation.

If you hold your hand near (not touching) an incandescent light bulb until you can feel heat on your hand, you’ll be able to understand how light can travel like a wave. This type of heat transfer is called radiation.

Now don’t panic. This is not a bad kind of radiation like you get from x-rays. It’s infra-red radiation. Heat was transferred from the light bulb to your hand. The energy from the light bulb resonated the molecules in your hand. (Remember resonance?) Since the molecules in your hand are now moving faster, they have increased in temperature. Heat has been transferred! In fact, an incandescent light bulb gives off more energy in heat then it does in light. They are not very energy efficient.

Now, if it’s a hot sunny day outside, are you better off wearing a black or white shirt if you want to stay cool? This experiment will help you figure this out:

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One Response to “Soaking Up Rays”

  1. christina_andrist says:

    Could you use a light from your house if it is winter?