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Simulating Heat Transfer

I n Minnesota, where sub-zero temperatures are a chilly winter reality, students in the SpECS program can simulate a very relevant real-world scenario--heat transfer. Using a Fortran-based program, students create a 2-D house floor plan, changing variables that represent the types of materials present--wood, brick, metal, glass, etc.--as well as the locations of heaters or air conditioners and any large objects that obstruct the flow of heat. The resulting simulation, which can be saved as a movie file, uses color to show temperature distribution over time based on the thermal conductivity of the materials and the placement of objects in a room. The computationally intense program uses a familiar situation to help students better understand the physics of heat conduction and gain an appreciation for the speed and power of computation. See story on SpECS: Simulations Help Students Understand "Real-Life" Science. *