# eli5 Why are some surfaces– like metal — colder than others?

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imagine im in a kitchen. if i touch a paper plate, it feels lukewarm. if i touch a knife, it feels kinda cold. why do they feel like different temperatures?

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They are the same temperature. When you touch something that feels cold even though it’s the same temperature, it’s because it’s conducting your body heat away from you. That’s why a tile floor feels colder than carpet and 72°F water feels cold while 72° air feels nice.

They are the same temperature. When you touch something that feels cold even though it’s the same temperature, it’s because it’s conducting your body heat away from you. That’s why a tile floor feels colder than carpet and 72°F water feels cold while 72° air feels nice.

They are the same temperature. When you touch something that feels cold even though it’s the same temperature, it’s because it’s conducting your body heat away from you. That’s why a tile floor feels colder than carpet and 72°F water feels cold while 72° air feels nice.

Metals conduct heat very well in the same way they conduct electricity well (and for the same underlying physical reasons). This means that when you touch a metal object that is colder than your hand, your heat leaves your hand and quickly gets distributed throughout the entire metal object. So that metal object effectively saps a lot of heat out of your hand, making you feel cold because the temperature at your nerve endings in the skin quickly drops. Conversely, paper does not conduct heat well, so when you touch it the transferred heat stays in the paper just near the place being touched, limiting the amount of heat that actually leaves your hand and thus not triggering the cold sensation.

Your body can’t actually feel the temperature of things.

What you feel is heat being transferred in or out.

This is arguably more important since you don’t care how warm or cold the environment is but how quickly you are losing heat to the world around you or overheat.

Water feels colder than air and windy air can feel colder than still one, because it will rob you of your body heat more quickly and that is vital information to have for your survival.

A wooden bench will feel less hot or cold than a metal one despite being the same temperature because metal stores and transfers heat energy easier than wood.

Evolution has given us not temp sensors but heat sensors.

We feel heat not temperature.

Often that works out the same, but some materials are very different from others.

Your body can’t actually feel the temperature of things.

What you feel is heat being transferred in or out.

This is arguably more important since you don’t care how warm or cold the environment is but how quickly you are losing heat to the world around you or overheat.

Water feels colder than air and windy air can feel colder than still one, because it will rob you of your body heat more quickly and that is vital information to have for your survival.

A wooden bench will feel less hot or cold than a metal one despite being the same temperature because metal stores and transfers heat energy easier than wood.

Evolution has given us not temp sensors but heat sensors.

We feel heat not temperature.

Often that works out the same, but some materials are very different from others.

Metals conduct heat very well in the same way they conduct electricity well (and for the same underlying physical reasons). This means that when you touch a metal object that is colder than your hand, your heat leaves your hand and quickly gets distributed throughout the entire metal object. So that metal object effectively saps a lot of heat out of your hand, making you feel cold because the temperature at your nerve endings in the skin quickly drops. Conversely, paper does not conduct heat well, so when you touch it the transferred heat stays in the paper just near the place being touched, limiting the amount of heat that actually leaves your hand and thus not triggering the cold sensation.

Your body can’t actually feel the temperature of things.

What you feel is heat being transferred in or out.

This is arguably more important since you don’t care how warm or cold the environment is but how quickly you are losing heat to the world around you or overheat.

Water feels colder than air and windy air can feel colder than still one, because it will rob you of your body heat more quickly and that is vital information to have for your survival.

A wooden bench will feel less hot or cold than a metal one despite being the same temperature because metal stores and transfers heat energy easier than wood.

Evolution has given us not temp sensors but heat sensors.

We feel heat not temperature.

Often that works out the same, but some materials are very different from others.