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Is heat by conduction an electromagnetic wave?

  1. Jan 20, 2016 #1
    In my physiology (biological science) class it was explained that, upon eating some food source, some energy is converted into a useful form for the body, and some energy is lost in the form of heat. The lecturer didn't explain what form this heat is in.

    I thought that 'heat' must be an EM wave, however I read that photons don't play a significant role in conduction.

    It seems heat must take some form or another. I have trouble accepting a kind of 'free energy' can exist in no real state.

    If there are only 4 fundamental forces, mustn't this 'heat' in question take the form of, or be explained by, one of them? I don't think nuclear forces, nor gravitation, is responsible for much in the digestion of food in the human body.

    Can someone please explain what form of energy 'heat' may take?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2016 #2


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    From wikipedia (which explains it better than I could): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_conduction

    Thermal conduction is the transfer of internal energy by microscopic diffusion and collisions of particles or quasi-particles within a body or between contiguous bodies. The microscopically diffusing and colliding objects include molecules, atoms, electrons, and phonons. They transfer disorganized microscopic kinetic and potential energy, which are jointly known as internal energy.

    Does that help?

    The electromagnetic interaction (EM force) is responsible for essentially all heat flow since the interactions described above take place via electric and magnetic forces.
  4. Jan 20, 2016 #3


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    Heat in typical materials at room temperature (including the human body) is mainly the unordered motion of atoms and molecules - kinetic energy (from moving atoms) and potential energy (from interatomic distances not at their lowest energy state).
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