Thermal Mosaic

A colourful mosaic sits on a brown table, behind a blue and black camera, that is attached to two steel rails.
A brown exhbit table with a colourful mosaic on top, that is behind a blue camera that is on steel rails. In the background is a fake stone wall with a green, white and blue information panel, and there is a second wall painted like a jungle.

Our skin feels heat and coolness, but it is not a reliable gauge of temperature.

How it works

Touch different materials, then use an infra red thermometer to check whether a material's temperature indicates how warm it feels.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Does any material display a lower or higher temperature reading?
  • Which material feels warmer to the touch?
  • Which material feels cooler to the touch?
  • How do these materials compare in temperature?


Different materials conduct heat differently so our skin feels them as different temperatures, even when they are all the same.

If a material conducts heat well, it takes heat away from our skin quickly, making our skin feel cold. If the material is a poor heat conductor, it does not take heat away quickly and our skin stays warm.

Thermometers measure an object's actual temperature, which is the average amount of kinetic energy (movement energy) its particles have. The exhibit's thermomemter measures how much infrared eneryg is being emitted by each material and infrared energy is what we feel as heat.

Finding the science in your world

Infrared cameras are used to detect heat generated by small impacts. In factories, thermal cameras detect collision points in machinery and in professional sports such as cricket, they measure whether a ball grazed across the bat, and whether the batsman should be 'given out'.