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"Why would heat transfer spontaneously from one body to another if we haven't said anything else about the bodies?"

This is the offered justification for the undoing of the previous edit, that more emphatically separated the definition of heat from the definition of hotter and colder, making it clearer that the hotter-colder idea is defined by dependence on the sense of the heat transfer. Neither definition offers an explanation of why heat transfer occurs.

In general, a definition of something does not offer to explain why it happens.

The explanation of the spontaneous character of heat transfer is rather deep, and is not part of the definition of heat. Non-zero heat transfer implies that the bodies stand in a hotter-colder relation to one another. If, apart from work and matter transfers, no energy transfers spontaneously, then one can say either that the heat transfer was of zero magnitude, or that there was no spontaneous energy transfer and therefore no heat transfer, as one prefers to speak. Either way, the hotter-colder relation is undefined. Then the bodies are said to be in a relation of thermal equilibrium.Chjoaygame (talk) 03:07, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

beginning the lede accessibly/usably vs foundationally/theoretically[edit]

It isn't necessary that the very beginning of the lede be driven by the most modern, general, or foundationally-pure definition of heat, nor necessarily limited to stating a subset of the necessary and sufficient conditions from such such a technical definition, nor necessarily avoiding mentioning any terms in a way that is pedagogic, predictive, or useful under limited circumstances but do not encourage the exclusive use of the most fundamental theoretical framework for thermodynamics.

I believe this is at the root of many of the disagreements we see for this and some other articles, especially those in thermodynamics.

In attempting to begin each article with such a general definition, we end up making this beginning inaccessible and obscure to the average reader. The average reader could benefit more, for example, from something enabling them to recognize heating in some simple situations and begin to be able to make predictions in such situations when they actually encounter them.

The most notable things for a nontechnical reader to know about, and be able to use, and relate to something else they know, are not always the same as the most notable things that a theorist or expert needs to know in order to understand the theoretical foundations of the field or which variables are primitive and which are defined in terms of which.

Also, prediction is useful and important even when you are not necessarily predicting an effect from its cause. If I have objects 1 and 2 (each at equilibrium etc) whose temperatures I've measured with a thermometer as T1 > T2, I can predict that if I put them in appropriate contact, heating will occur spontaneously, transferring energy from object 1 to object 2. This is a very useful prediction and a very notable "thing to know" about heating, even though the transfer is not caused by the temperatures themselves, and even though temperature is not more fundamental or primitive than heat, and even though today's most notable foundational or technical definitions of heat do not and should not define it in terms of temperature. And, yes, even though there exist other cases in which the temperature of a system as a whole is not even well-defined and yet heating can occur, and even though, in a subset of such cases, even the concept of local temperature or partitioning the system into small approximate-equilibrium or infinitesimal equilibrium cells doesn't always make temperature well defined or usable to predict heat.

Even beyond the first sentences, as it stands now (and in contrast to most other introductory treatments of heat, including probably many other wikipediae) a general reader of this article would likely close it without having learned that there are some simple (predictive) relationships among measured temperature and energy transfer via heating in some situations that he may encounter every day. He/she would not know that when he goes outside in the winter, his body spontaneously loses energy via heat, nor even that the concept of "heat" is in any way applicable or relevant to this phenomenon (aside from his possible preconceived conflation of heat with temperature), nor that energy will *not* similarly flow spontaneously in the other direction to give the energy back to him, nor perhaps that science has very much at all to say about this phenomenon that he encounters every day. Of course you and I know that there is relevant information in the article, but it is buried deeper and thus de-emphasized in favor of the more technical aspects that are applicable in the more general case rather than the simpler or more common cases.

Even in the lede we launch into engines before discussing any simpler situations that might be relevant for that person going out in the winter. Heat is an important and useful concept even if engines had never been invented or discovered. Engines are also of course a more complex example because there is much more than heating going on in an engine. Some of these complexities may have been brought in very early primarily in order to justify the more general/technical treatment itself

DavRosen (talk) 17:29, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

Well, it emerges that you would like to see big changes in the article, especially in the lead. I will need a few days to think about this.Chjoaygame (talk) 18:46, 22 April 2014 (UTC)
In the meantime, I have removed from the lead the chatter about engines, which has worried me for some time, that it was excessive.Chjoaygame (talk) 02:13, 23 April 2014 (UTC)
Having thought about what you write just above, I see it is about Wikipedia policy. I think it unlikely that I can respond usefully about that.Chjoaygame (talk) 22:00, 23 April 2014 (UTC)
Okay, do you mean that what I'm proposing may indeed be more consistent with wikipedia policy than what we have in this article today? Or that what I'm proposing is less consistent with, and thus would require a change to, WP policy? Or that you aren't certain which (if either) is consistent with policy and will leave that question to others? Or something else? DavRosen (talk) 13:58, 24 April 2014 (UTC)
I mean that I think it unlikely that I can respond usefully about it.Chjoaygame (talk) 22:08, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

Does anyone like this idea for modifying the lead?[edit]

In physics, heating is transfer of energy, from a hotter body to a colder one, other than by work or transfer of matter. It occurs spontaneously whenever a suitable physical pathway exists between the bodies.[1][2][3][4][5][6] The pathway can be direct, as in conduction and radiation, or indirect, as in convective circulation.[7][8][9] (Heating is a dissipative process. Heat is not a state function of a system. (reinsert below)

Kinetic theory explains transfers of energy as heat as macroscopic manifestations of the motions and interactions of microscopic constituents such as molecules and photons.

The quantity of energy transferred as heat is a scalar expressed in an energy unit such as the joule (J) (SI), with a sign that is customarily positive when a transfer adds to the energy of a system. It can be measured by calorimetry,[10] or determined by calculations based on other quantities, relying on the first law of thermodynamics. In calorimetry, latent heat changes a system's state without temperature change, while sensible heat changes its temperature, leaving some other state variable(s) unchanged; the terms latent and sensible are correlative.

Heat is a central concept in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, and is also important in chemistry, engineering, and other disciplines. Heating is a dissipative process. Heat is not a state function of a system.

--guyvan52 (talk) 21:01, 24 April 2014 (UTC)

Not I.Chjoaygame (talk) 22:11, 24 April 2014 (UTC)
That makes the vote 0 to 1, as I shall abstain.--guyvan52 (talk) 14:46, 25 April 2014 (UTC)
I like moving down & clarifying the "not a state function" part as this is meaningless to the general reader. Something about microscopic constituents should stay because it is a good pedagogy for visualizing what heat can be (even if not in the most general case). Dissipative is important and slightly easier to understand than not a state function but could be explained.
Is this meant to address my concerns in previous section, or is it separate from that? DavRosen (talk) 17:23, 25 April 2014 (UTC)
Yes, this was meant to address your concerns in the previous section. But I must confess that I had trouble understanding your concerns. The lead as it now stands is acceptable to me -- all Wikipedia leads are compromises, so acceptable is the best we can ever get. I like the idea of clarifying phrases like "not a state function" but in thermodynamics, efforts at clarification can easily go astray. I believe this is because concepts like "heat", "temperature", and even "entropy" are just words, and words can have different meanings in different contexts. Defining (or describing) "heat" as energy that flows between objects of different temperature is good. Qualifying that with advanced concepts such as "ohmic heating" or reversible heat flow between substances of nearly the same temperature can quickly send the reader into an abyss of complexity that must be avoided. (In fact the only reason I wanted to include the non-state-function status of heat in the lead is that it is such a common misconception among students)
To reiterate, clarifying "not a state function" is a good idea. But I cannot support it until I see the actual words. I do like the idea of deleting "Kinetic theory explains transfers of energy as heat as macroscopic manifestations of the motions and interactions of microscopic constituents such as molecules and photons.". Among other things, not all thermal energy is kinetic energy. Moreover, it not "kinetic theory" but "quantum theory" that ultimately explains anything in the real world. But as I already stated, the lead is acceptable to me. (Is lede the British spelling?)--guyvan52 (talk) 00:48, 26 April 2014 (UTC)
At the risk of arguing with myself, I now see the need for some sort of statement informing the novice that heat and temperature must be understood at the microscopic level of randomly moving particles. Therefore, my proposed deletion of the sentence containing "kinetic theory" probably needs to be replaced by a suggestion that we look for a better way to express the concept.--guyvan52 (talk) 00:58, 26 April 2014 (UTC)
(Spelling it lede means one is very much au fait and with it. Spelling it lead means one is just ordinary. Lede is not ordinary English, British or not.)
I think that some mention in the lead of kinetic theory, or somesuch, is almost inevitable. If it is removed now I guess it very likely that someone will soon put it back, with some determination, with either of the words kinetic or statistical. Kinetic theory is good at explaining temperature for some problems, but heat is best considered as primarily a macroscopic thermodynamic concept I think. While kinetic theory can account for heat as microscopically diffusive transfer of energy, it is hard to see it as giving an account more easily accessible than is given by the more or less intuitive concept of macroscopic conduction. Kinetic theory is hardly the most obvious simple way to describe radiation. I don't think the summary use of quantum ideas makes heat transfer clearer to intuition. I think that in order to understand the quantum approach, one first needs to understand the macroscopic.
The phrase 'motions and interactions of microscopic constituents' intends to include the potential energies of particle interactions.
I would be unhappy to describe "heat as energy that flows between objects". It might give the impression that it started as heat in one object and ended as heat in the other. I would not be so unhappy to see it described as energy in flight, or as energy flowing, because these do not seem to me to suggest the impression of the just previous sentence. But I think there are some who would be unhappy with these as well.Chjoaygame (talk) 04:53, 26 April 2014 (UTC)
I don't think we want to immediately rewrite those first couple of sentences; they were constructed through a lot of negotiation to be just ambiguous enough not to outright contradict foundational views while still conveying at least a little bit of usable information to the general reader.
  1. The first sentence is ("intentionally" in my view) loosely readable in at least two ways: as heat being the [perhaps "form of"] energy itself, and as heat[ing] instead being the transfer process/mechanism (which in turn transfers energy rather than being energy).
  2. The first & second sentences together (again "intentionally" to me) allude to heat and a temperature difference co-occurring in some situations, without strictly implying that heat is caused nor defined by temperatures nor depends on temperature being a more primitive concept.
  3. Ultimately I believe macroscopic thermodynamics is largely "explained" by statistical physics/thermodynamics (even without quantum mechanics) -- not just under the assumptions of simple kinetic theory. But I don't think mentioning the term kinetic theory itself adds anything for the general reader except a technical term that doesn't itself aid in the simplest summary of the concepts of heat.
I wasn't so much trying to elicit new wording as I was trying to start a discussion about the goals of the article and especially for the general reader who will not read deeply into it. My view is that foundational definitional questions that don't affect the predictions of thermodynamics nor actual outcomes of experiments may provide nothing understandable or usable to the general reader; rather they are a subject of great interest and importance to those among us with a deeper interest in thermodynamic theory. If it's absolutely necessary not to denigrate the most current or notable definitional formulation of thermodynamic theory, I would rather see such caveats in a footnote than see them constraining the entire approach of what's the most notable for the general reader to take away from the article.
DavRosen (talk) 03:13, 28 April 2014 (UTC)
BTW, one approach, which may or may not be helpful here, is to convey useful (but non-universal/non-foundational) information without the explicit caveats, but then, either immediately or even later in the section, say "More generally, ....". DavRosen (talk) 03:26, 28 April 2014 (UTC)
The "more generally" phrase is a good idea to keep in mind. But it is not a panacea. For example, "Heat is energy that spontaneously flows from hot to cold objects. More generally it can refer to other forms of energy transfer, such as energy delivered to conductor by passing current through it." The problem is that we are talking about two different definitions of the same word, not exceptions to one definition. In this case, I think the best solution is to take a long range approach and wait for Wiki glossaries or dictionaries to fill that gap. Whenever I look at a WP history page, I see that improvement has occurred over the years. I trust that this is also happening with Wictionary. Another place to fill such gaps is Wikiversity. Someday I would like to write a Wikiversity learning resource that "teaches" a Wikipedia article. Unfortunately I have years of projects with higher priority ahead of me.--guyvan52 (talk) 14:14, 28 April 2014 (UTC)
I don't think we should get too hung up on having the first sentence (or several) constitute a definition of heat in the most advanced and airtight way. Rather we should start with what ever conveys the largest amount of the most notable characteristics or characterizations of heat. By "conveys" I mean what the general reader will take away from it, not what we state that they don't know what to make of. In science, the ability to recognize instances of the concept that you may encounter or to use it to make testable predictions are important measures of how much notable information you've really absorbed about the concept. For example, if they know that A is at a greater temperature than B, then they can predict that appropriate contact will result in energy transfer from A to B as heating. Or vice-versa -- if this energy flow is occurring spontaneously then they can predict that, if they are able to measure a consistent temperature on both sides of the boundary, the temperature must be lower on the side receiving the heat. This is a phenomenon that the general reader can recognize and use to make predictions in situations he will encounter. Prediction can go in more than one direction among a set of variables and doesn't in itself imply the causation or definitional relationships among the terms or variables used. It isn't possible to immediately convey the causal or especially definitional relationships even though these are of paramount importance to an expert, who, by the way, can already recognize (and make predictions with) the aforementioned heat examples without necessarily digging down through the fundamental definitions themselves explicitly. The fact that it isn't the temperature itself that causes or defines the presence of heating (but rather both are caused by....) is a subtlety that the general reader is not yet equipped to appreciate in the first couple of sentences of the lede, so it shouldn't drive the content there. Constraining the initial content so as not to contradict what the expert knows most fundamentally may make the expert happy but is going to cause the general reader to take away less comprehension. The first couple of sentences shouldn't be targeted at the expert, who already knows far more than we could state there anyway. (Distinguishing heat from a transfer of matter may be another definitional subtlety that needn't appear in the first sentence; you can understand and use a lot about thermodynamics that isn't nullified even if you refer to a diffusive dissipative transfer of matter as a type of heat terminologically.) DavRosen (talk) 14:05, 30 April 2014 (UTC)

modify the lead?[edit]

I think also that the lead need to be modified. In particular, the actual definition is related just to the case where heat is transferred between two systems. In the general case, heat can also be:

  • consumed or generated by a chemical reaction
  • generated (or consumed? - I don't know) by a nuclear reaction.

Hence, I suggest this definition:

In physics, heat is defined as the contribution of energy consumed or generated because of a chemical or nuclear reaction or transferred between two systems or two parts of the same system, not attributable to work.

This definition is translated from it.wikipedia. Actually, in it.wikipedia it says "not attributable to work or energy conversion", but I think that heat can be seen as a particular energy conversion, for example "Heat of reaction" is generated by the conversion from chemical energy to thermal energy.
I agree that, if possible, it could be also clearer to give a brief definition of "dissipative process" and "state function", otherwise it is difficult for the common reader to understand.
Finally, regarding the sentence:

Kinetic theory explains transfers of energy as heat as macroscopic manifestations of the motions and interactions of microscopic constituents such as molecules and photons

It looks to me to much complex to stay in the lead. Or at least, it could be moved at the end of the lead, with the sentences related to the state function and dissipation. @Chjoaygame: Kinetic theory explains also the process of heat transferred by conduction; in fact we can think that during conduction the particles collide each other and during this collision they exchange "microscopic kinetic energy" (= thermal energy). --Daniele Pugliesi (talk) 00:18, 30 October 2014 (UTC)

Thank you for these comments.
There has been a consensus here that heat is as defined in the lead of the article. Your proposal goes radically and incurably against that consensus.
I agree that the sentences about state function and dissipation are rather technical and opaque. They are a compromise to partly satisfy some editors who want those concepts emphasized. I am inclined even to think that dissipative process is not the best way to express the matter. Considerable care would be needed to remedy this.Chjoaygame (talk) 01:54, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
I have now taken care of it.Chjoaygame (talk)
First of all, please read here:
"Editors may propose a change to current consensus (...)"
"Editors who revert a change proposed by an edit should generally avoid terse explanations (such as "against consensus") which provide little guidance to the proposing editor (or, if you do use such terse explanations, it is helpful to also include a link to the discussion where the consensus was formed)"
Now, please concentrate to the issue: I raised more than one reason to say that the actual lead is not general enough.
It makes no sense to talk about "opinions", so I will look for reliable sources that give a clear and complete definition of heat. I invite also the other participants to the discussion to do the same: let's just pay attention to choose reliable sources and more than one, so we can realize which definition of heat is universally adopted. I think this is the wiki-way to approach the issue, if you have any other opinion please let me know. Thanks. --Daniele Pugliesi (talk) 19:36, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
  • The problem is there exist an infinite number of types of potential energy that can be transformed into heat. Not just from nuclear and chemical reactions. If you get shot by a rifle, or drop a rock on your toe, that energy also turns into heat (eventually), but this is not a good reason to redefine the lead, because the energy in these processes, even after it becomes kinetic, isn't HEAT energy (yet) Or THERMAL energy (yet). A bullet or fission fragment has no temperature just because it is moving fast. Its kinetic energy must be "thermalized" to make a temperature, before heat can appear, and a bullet or fission fragment is not carrying "heat" or thermal energy.

    The reason is that heat is a special type of energy transferred down thermal gradients as dq = TdS, and you must set up a temperature and a thermal gradient before this entropy-increasing process can happen.

    Something irreversible, in other words, needs to be done to the energy before it becomes "heat." That is true also in chemical and nuclear reactions, which don't specifically release "heat" so much as fast particles. A chemical reaction does not release "heat" any more than a fission fragment or a bullet does. Rather, before "heat" appears, there's some necessary entropy to pay court to. There must be some randomization of direction of kinetic energy in a solid or gas that much happen first, before we make "heat." Just because "heat" is what we wind up with at the end, does not mean we should make a mistake of thinking "heat" is what we had, all along. This article is about what happens when temperature gradient has been established, and heat flows as a thermodynamic process, down that gradient. It's not about what happens as the rock is dropped on your toe, before impact. The heat from an impact or reaction is well after the mechanical steps you want to talk about, which (strictly speaking) are "pre-heat" energy transformations. There really isn't a name for them. But "heat" doesn't appear until late in this process. By that time, there are limits as to how much of your previous chemical or kinetic energy you can get back! SBHarris 21:25, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

  • Thank you, Editor Daniele Pugliesi for lecturing me on my bad manners. I am glad to learn from you.
Going to your proposal, which I copy here from above for convenience: As I read you, you are proposing to change the present article's definition of heat to the following.
In physics, heat is defined as the contribution of energy consumed or generated because of a chemical or nuclear reaction or transferred between two systems or two parts of the same system, not attributable to work.
This definition is translated from it.wikipedia.
This may well be the view of the Italian Wikipedia, but it is not the consensus view here, as may be found out by reading this talk page over some years. So far, you give no hint that you have done that. Neither have you actually produced a fair survey of good sources to show which we should regard as reliable. Indeed, the only source so far that you have cited is the Italian Wikipedia. Wikipedia does not qualify as a reliable source, because that would be dangerously circular.
There are good reasons for the consensus here. In a nutshell, internal energy cannot be split consistently into heat and work and chemical constituent moieties. This is because heat and work describe processes of energy transfer, not states of a system, while internal energy describes a state of a system. You seem to have taken no notice of those reasons.
The definition you propose is naturally read to imply, even if only tacitly, that heat is a constituent moiety of internal energy.
There are of course, plenty of old-fashioned texts that do not use the foregoing strict definition of heat as a transfer quantity. In that respect they are not here considered to be reliable sources. As I have mentioned, to recognize a reliable source in a scientific area such as thermodynamics, one needs to compare a good range of potential sources.
I think it fair to say, in view of the many old-fashioned texts that use the word heat in more or less the ways you propose, that one cannot expect to find a "universally adopted definition" such as you suggest we seek. It would be very bad to try to reflect the various obsolete ideas in the present article as if they were of equal merit with the preferred and best. If you wish to write a section on obsolete ways of using the word heat, I suppose you might do so, explicitly recognizing them as obsolete. You would need to make it clear that from the viewpoint of the present article, the obsolete usages represent errors or confusions of thought in physics.
You also seem to want to put more in the lead about a dissipative process, and about a state function. The lead is a summary of the article, not the place for extensive detailing. As a matter of detail, following your suggestion, I have removed the word 'dissipation' and replaced it with the perhaps more controversial, but I think more accurate and appropriate word 'dispersal'. Dissipation really refers, I think, to conversion of bulk kinetic energy, and work, into internal energy, and of chemical potential energy into other internal energy, not heat transfer, which I think is more accurately described as dispersive. There is some objection to the term dispersion, but there is also good authority for it. Peter Atkins is perhaps the best authority for it, though it is also championed in Wikipedia by another group. The idea of dispersion in this context is good. In a microscopic picture, the energy is dispersed into all available microscopic degrees of freedom, as well as being dispersed into the widest reaches of space, subject to some constraints, such as phase change.
As for your proposal that the definition should be just about transfers not attributable to work, one should also consider that heat transfer is not definable in a transfer that carries matter with it. Therefore the definition should explicitly exclude transfer with matter as well and transfer as work. This point has been carefully explained in the article on the first law of thermodynamics, in which the various transfers are considered. Heat is transferred directly by conduction and radiation. Convection in general transfers internal energy, not heat. In the special case of convective circulation, the convective aspect transfers internal energy, which is collected and delivered by the direct mechanisms.
Thus, I am saying that from the viewpoint of the present article, your proposal would not make the definition more general, rather it would make it wrong in physics.Chjoaygame (talk) 21:36, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

undid good faith edit; reasons[edit]

I undid a good faith edit. The reason is that it didn't fit the way of viewing these matters that has been established by consensus in this area of Wikipedia editing.

'Thermal energy' is a term that is often used loosely, and mostly in statistical mechanics, but is not accepted as a strictly defined term in thermodynamics. It is perhaps convenient for some writers to use the term, but the consensus here is that it is not correct to use it as was done by the edit. This consensus is based on a wide reading of reliable sources in physics, especially in thermodynamics. The use of the term 'thermal energy' in the present article would lead to confusion, and would likely mislead many readers, even if some readers would be comfortable to see it used as in the edit that I undid.

The present wording of the first sentence of the lead is linguistically contrary to ordinary language, as follows. The present lead's first sentence is "In physics, heat is the transfer of energy..." A native English speaker knows that this is not ordinary language usage, not even ordinary scientific language usage. But I don't try to correct it because I know that to do so would provoke undesirable consequences. I will not enlarge on this right here and now. But the fault in the present wording of the lead is not a reason to justify the edit that I undid.Chjoaygame (talk) 04:36, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

So I made the change precisely because I was surprised that "heat" is defined here as a *transfer* of energy, rather than the energy itself (which is how I always hear the term used - eg "that thing has a lot of heat", or even, "that thing is very hot"). Given that there was no obvious place to go to an article about heat energy itself, I found the page for thermal energy and thought it best to clarify. As it stands, the problem of a confusing definition of heat without a clarification and where to read about what people usually think about as heat, is unfixed.
I'm not sure I understand what "undesirable consequences" you're talking about, and I also don't understand what is confusing about calling the heat transferred by... well.. heat, "thermal energy". Maybe you can clarify. Fresheneesz (talk) 05:20, 10 December 2014 (UTC)
What would you suggest as an alternative here?
On the face of it, "thermal energy" might seem more appropriate than simply "energy" in this sentence, but it is not. One can concoct two reasons for adding the word "thermal". They are: (1) a link to the Wikipedia's Thermal energy, and (2) more clarification in that the energy transferred in the form of heat can be called thermal energy. This is a case where two weak arguments fail to make a strong argument; in fact they cancel each other out. Let us consider these reasons separately:
(1) The link. The WP article Thermal energy uses the word in a way that contradicts this article. That doesn't necessarily mean that Wikipedia's Thermal energy is wrong. Words can have different meanings in different contexts, and the sense of the word used in Thermal energy is wrong in this article.
(2) The clarification. It is true the energy transferred is called thermal energy, and it is true that such repetition can sometimes make prose easier for the reader to follow. But referring to heat as thermal energy is redundant here, and therefore not needed. The only way you could salvage the situation is to include an entire sentence, such as: "This energy transfer (that we call heat) is also called thermal energy. But you need a reason to add an entire sentence into an article. A sentence like this can only be justified if it clarifies a potential confusion in the minds of some readers. But here, the sentence would only confuse readers as they link to Thermal energy and read an article that uses the word in almost the opposite sense that it is being used in this article....So now you need two sentences, one to say that "heat" can also be called "thermal energy", and the other to say that some people refer to internal energy as "thermal energy". And heat is most definitely not the same thing as internal energy (at least not in this article.) --guyvan52 (talk) 08:03, 10 December 2014 (UTC)