Why Do We Feel Colder? The Science Behind Our Sensation of Coldness"

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In summary, the explanation for why we feel colder when we touch a block of ice is because of the amount of blood flow through our hands and its proximity to the surface. The decrease in temperture of our cells causes us to feel cold.
  • #1
pivoxa15
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We at normal body temperture and normal room temperture touch a block of ice and we feel it is cold. Not just our hands but our whole body as well.

Why? Is it because we are use to transferring a certain amount of heat to the surrounding and if we touch a block of ice, we transfer much more heat than usual and so our body temperture decrease hence we feel colder. Does a decrease in temperture directly cause the feeling of 'coldness'? Is this the best explanation for novices?
 
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  • #2
Partially. The main reason that it affects your whole body (in my opinion), is because of the amount of blood flow through the hands and its proximity to the surface. The blood itself is chilled by the contact, and then circulates that lower temperature throughout the body.
I have found that when I'm really cold (and being an Albertan, I know cold), my best remedy is to run a sink full of water as hot as I can stand it and immerse my hands and wrists in it. I can feel the heat flowing down my back within a couple of seconds.
 
  • #3
Danger said:
Partially. The main reason that it affects your whole body (in my opinion), is because of the amount of blood flow through the hands and its proximity to the surface. The blood itself is chilled by the contact, and then circulates that lower temperature throughout the body.
I have found that when I'm really cold (and being an Albertan, I know cold), my best remedy is to run a sink full of water as hot as I can stand it and immerse my hands and wrists in it. I can feel the heat flowing down my back within a couple of seconds.

So it's like the body is transferring energy to the ice and most that energy comes from the blood and other cells. These cells decrease in temperture and you feel cold. Does a decrease in temperture directly cause the feeling of 'coldness'?
 
  • #4
Pretty much. There is no such thing as 'cold', just as there is no such thing as 'dark'. There is only the absence of heat or light. The outflow of heat from the body to another place is perceived as 'cold'. The thermal conductivity of the material makes a huge difference. If you touch a piece of wood that's at 30 degrees C., it will feel reasonably warm (for non-metric types, body temperature is 37 degrees). If you touch a piece of steel that's at 30 degrees, it will feel quite cold. That's because it draws the heat away from your body far more effectively than the wood does. That's one of the main reasons that I gave up being a locksmith; working at -40C with Vise-Grips, when you can't wear gloves, is incompatible with arthritis.
 
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  • #5
Blood flow is actually the dominant way for heat to be transferred from one part of the body to another. Keep in mind that even though water is a fairly poor conductor of heat, but has a very high heat capacity. Pushing water around is an excellent way to move heat.

- Warren
 
  • #6
chroot said:
Pushing water around is an excellent way to move heat.

Of course, in my case that's Keith's Anti-freeze. :biggrin:
 
  • #7
Most of you surely already knows this:
You know how can penguins preserve their heat even if they have wide flat feet? It's not because of fat or low-conductive tissues.

It's because of an ingenuous mechanism (now copied from engineers!) of counter-flow heat exchange. Blood going down towards the feet exchanges heat with the blood moving up, so, when the blood arrives to the feet, it has the ground low-temperature, and so it cannot exchange heat with it!
 
  • #8
lightarrow said:
Most of you surely already knows this:

Yeah... right... :rolleyes:
I've sure never heard of that. Neat bit of info.
 
  • #9
Danger said:
Pretty much. There is no such thing as 'cold', just as there is no such thing as 'dark'. There is only the absence of heat or light. The outflow of heat from the body to another place is perceived as 'cold'. The thermal conductivity of the material makes a huge difference. If you touch a piece of wood that's at 30 degrees C., it will feel reasonably warm (for non-metric types, body temperature is 37 degrees). If you touch a piece of steel that's at 30 degrees, it will feel quite cold. That's because it draws the heat away from your body far more effectively than the wood does. That's one of the main reasons that I gave up being a locksmith; working at -40C with Vise-Grips, when you can't wear gloves, is incompatible with arthritis.

Is there a thing as heat? Would you say the underlying reason for feeling cold is a drop in temperture in the body. The reason for this drop is heat outflow. So heat is a theoretical entity (even more so than temperture because it can't be directly measured by a device?) to account for differences in tempertures in bodies.
 
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  • #10
It also has a lot to do with the way nerve endings communicate to the brain. Its like when you get into a really hot bath -- you actually itch because your brain is trying to process what is wrong but can't quite make it out. In a sense, touching a block of ice making you cold is your body saying -- something ain't quite right here, so stop doing that!
 

Related to Why Do We Feel Colder? The Science Behind Our Sensation of Coldness"

Why do we feel colder in certain weather?

The sensation of coldness is actually our body's response to the difference in temperature between our skin and the environment. When the temperature around us drops, our skin loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing us to feel cold.

Why do we shiver when we're cold?

Shivering is our body's way of generating heat. When we feel cold, our muscles contract and relax rapidly, which produces heat and helps to warm our body up.

Why do some people feel colder than others in the same temperature?

Everyone has a different tolerance for cold temperatures based on factors such as body fat percentage, muscle mass, and metabolism. People with more body fat tend to feel warmer because fat acts as insulation and retains heat. Additionally, women generally have a lower tolerance for cold temperatures compared to men.

Why does cold air feel colder when it's windy?

Wind speeds up the process of heat loss from our skin by blowing away the thin layer of warm air that surrounds our body. This leads to a more rapid decrease in our skin's temperature, making us feel colder.

Why does our body adapt to cold temperatures over time?

Our body is capable of adapting to different environments through a process called acclimatization. When exposed to cold temperatures over time, our body will undergo physiological changes such as increased blood flow to the extremities and shivering less, making us feel less cold in the same temperature.

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