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Furthermore, experimentation has shown that if two systems, A and B, are in thermal equilibrium with each another, and B is in thermal equilibrium with a third system C, then A is also in thermal equilibrium with C. This conclusion may seem obvious, because all three have the same temperature, but it is basic to thermodynamics. It is called the zeroth law of thermodynamics    .

The zeroth law of thermodynamics

If two systems, A and B, are in thermal equilibrium with each other, and B is in thermal equilibrium with a third system, C, then A is also in thermal equilibrium with C.

This law was postulated in the 1930s, after the first and second laws of thermodynamics had been developed and named. It is called the zeroth law because it comes logically before the first and second laws. An example of this law in action is seen in babies in incubators: babies in incubators normally have very few clothes on, so to an observer they look as if they may not be warm enough. However, the temperature of the air, the cot, and the baby is the same, because they are in thermal equilibrium, which is accomplished by maintaining air temperature to keep the baby comfortable.

Does the temperature of a body depend on its size?

No, the system can be divided into smaller parts each of which is at the same temperature. We say that the temperature is an intensive quantity. Intensive quantities are independent of size.

Section summary

  • Temperature is the quantity measured by a thermometer.
  • Temperature is related to the average kinetic energy of atoms and molecules in a system.
  • Absolute zero is the temperature at which there is no molecular motion.
  • There are three main temperature scales: Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin.
  • Temperatures on one scale can be converted to temperatures on another scale using the following equations:
    T º F = 9 5 T º C + 32 size 12{T rSub { size 8{°F} } = { {9} over {5} } T rSub { size 8{°C} } +"32"} {}
    T º C = 5 9 T º F 32 size 12{T rSub { size 8{°C} } = { {5} over {9} } left (T rSub { size 8{°F} } - "32" right )} {}
    T K = T º C + 273 . 15 size 12{T rSub { size 8{K} } =T rSub { size 8{°C} } +"273" "." "15"} {}
    T º C = T K 273 . 15 size 12{T rSub { size 8{°C} } =T rSub { size 8{K} } - "273" "." "15"} {}
  • Systems are in thermal equilibrium when they have the same temperature.
  • Thermal equilibrium occurs when two bodies are in contact with each other and can freely exchange energy.
  • The zeroth law of thermodynamics states that when two systems, A and B, are in thermal equilibrium with each other, and B is in thermal equilibrium with a third system, C, then A is also in thermal equilibrium with C.

Conceptual questions

What does it mean to say that two systems are in thermal equilibrium?

Give an example of a physical property that varies with temperature and describe how it is used to measure temperature.

When a cold alcohol thermometer is placed in a hot liquid, the column of alcohol goes down slightly before going up. Explain why.

If you add boiling water to a cup at room temperature, what would you expect the final equilibrium temperature of the unit to be? You will need to include the surroundings as part of the system. Consider the zeroth law of thermodynamics.

Problems&Exercises

What is the Fahrenheit temperature of a person with a 39 . 0 º C size 12{"39" "." 0°C} {} fever?

102 º F size 12{"102"°F} {}

Frost damage to most plants occurs at temperatures of 28 . 0 º F size 12{"28" "." 0°F} {} or lower. What is this temperature on the Kelvin scale?

To conserve energy, room temperatures are kept at 68 . 0 º F size 12{"68" "." 0°F} {} in the winter and 78 . 0 º F size 12{"78" "." 0°F} {} in the summer. What are these temperatures on the Celsius scale?

20 . 0 º C size 12{"20" "." 0°C} {} and 25 . 6 º C size 12{"25" "." 6°C} {}

A tungsten light bulb filament may operate at 2900 K. What is its Fahrenheit temperature? What is this on the Celsius scale?

The surface temperature of the Sun is about 5750 K. What is this temperature on the Fahrenheit scale?

9890 º F size 12{"9890"°F} {}

One of the hottest temperatures ever recorded on the surface of Earth was 134 º F size 12{"134"°F} {} in Death Valley, CA. What is this temperature in Celsius degrees? What is this temperature in Kelvin?

(a) Suppose a cold front blows into your locale and drops the temperature by 40.0 Fahrenheit degrees. How many degrees Celsius does the temperature decrease when there is a 40 . 0 º F size 12{"40" "." 0°F} {} decrease in temperature? (b) Show that any change in temperature in Fahrenheit degrees is nine-fifths the change in Celsius degrees.

(a) 22 . 2 º C size 12{"22" "." 2°C} {}

(b) Δ T º F = T 2 º F T 1 º F = 9 5 T 2 º C + 32 . 0 º 9 5 T 1 º C + 32 . 0 º = 9 5 T 2 º C T 1 º C = 9 5 Δ T º C

(a) At what temperature do the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales have the same numerical value? (b) At what temperature do the Fahrenheit and Kelvin scales have the same numerical value?

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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of physics. OpenStax CNX. Aug 25, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11738/1.5
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