I came across an example figure in my first-year physics textbook depicting a tile of the same material used for the heat shield on the space shuttle. The tile is hot enough to be glowing red, and yet a person is holding it by the edges. The caption explains that this is due to the "extremely small thermal conductivity and small heat capacity of the material." Small thermal conductivity makes sense. You want something that can insulate the orbiter (which is apparently made of aluminium, at least in part) from the heat from the shock front of compressed gas during re-entry. But I'm confused about the small heat capacity. My first instinct is that you would want a material with a large heat capacity so that you could dump a lot of energy into it without it heating up too much. I'm not sure where that reasoning goes wrong. The only other thought I've had is that maybe you want the tiles to heat up quickly to the temperature of the gas, so that there won't be any subsequent heat transfer to the tiles, which are already in thermal equilibrium with the gas. Can anyone explain the true reasoning to me?