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Physics for Kids


What is temperature?

Temperature can be a difficult property to define. In our everyday lives we use the word temperature to describe the hotness or coldness of an object. In physics, the temperature is the average kinetic energy of the moving particles in a substance.

How is temperature measured?

Temperature is measured using a thermometer. There are different scales and standards for measuring temperature including Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. These are discussed in more detail below.

How does a thermometer work?

Thermometers take advantage of a scientific property called thermal expansion. Most substances will expand and take up more volume as they get hotter. Liquid thermometers have some sort of substance (this used to be mercury, but today is generally alcohol) that is enclosed in a small glass tube.

As the temperature rises, the liquid expands and fills up more of the tube. When the temperature drops, the liquid contracts and takes up less of the tube. The temperature can then be read by the lines calibrated on the side of the tube.

Temperature Scales

There are three main temperature scales that are used today: Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin. Converting Between Scales

Celsius and Fahrenheit

°C = (°F - 32)/1.8
°F = 1.8 * °C + 32°

Celsius and Kelvin

K = °C + 273.15
°C = K - 273.15°

Absolute Zero

Absolute zero is the coldest possible temperature that any substance can reach. It is equal to 0 Kelvin or -273.15 °C (-459.67°F).

Temperature and the State of Matter

Temperature has an effect on the state of matter. Each substance of matter will go through different phases as the temperature increases including solid, liquid, and gas. One example of this is water which changes from ice (solid) to water (liquid) to vapor (gas) as the temperature increases. You can learn more about this subject at our phases of matter page.

Interesting Facts about Temperature Activities

More Physics Subjects on Motion, Work, and Energy

Scalars and Vectors
Vector Math
Mass and Weight
Speed and Velocity
Laws of Motion
Simple Machines
Glossary of Motion Terms
Work and Energy
Kinetic Energy
Potential Energy
Momentum and Collisions

Science >> Physics for Kids

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