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What is Temperature?

Answer #1

Level 2 (suitable for students)
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Consider a closed box containing a gas. The temperature \(T\) of this gas describes the average kinetic energy \( \overline{W}_{\text{kin}}\):

Temperature as average kinetic energy
Formula anchor

Here \(k_{\text B}\) is the Boltzmann constant with the value \( k_{\text B} = 1.38 \cdot 10^{-23}\, \frac{\mathrm{J}}{\mathrm{K}} \). And \( f \) is the number of degrees of freedom of a gas particle. For example, if a gas particle can move in all three spatial directions but does not rotate, then \(f=3\).

Temperature is therefore a measure of how fast the particles in a body are moving. The faster they move, the larger the temperature. The slower they move, the smaller the temperature. In the extreme case, when the particles are not moving at all, the temperature is \( T = 0 \, \mathrm{K} \) (Kelvin).

Absolute temperature is measured in the unit "Kelvin" and the lowest temperature is just \( T = 0 \, \mathrm{K} \). You can calculate the absolute temperature in degrees Celsius with the following formula:

Convert Kelvin to Celsius
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Here \( T_{\mathrm C} \) is the temperature in degrees Celsius and \(T\) is the temperature in Kelvin. You can see from the formula that the physically lowest temperature is \( T_{\mathrm C} = -273.15\, ^\circ \mathrm{C} \).