Say you have two identically-weighted boxes of materials, same size, both solid, both the same temperature. The only difference is that one is made out of metal and one is made out of plastic. Why does the metal feel hotter on your hand?

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    $\begingroup$ This question has nothing to do with engineering and is probably more adequate for physics.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Wasabi
    Aug 29, 2016 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ Conductivity. Metals can conduct (transfer) heat much faster than plastics. Your hand thus gains heat (and the skin temperature rises) much faster when touching hot metal than hot plastic. $\endgroup$
    – Jens
    Aug 29, 2016 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


Because it IS hotter — where you're touching it.

When you touch a hot surface, heat flows from the surface to your hand. This both heats your hand and cools the surface. When the surface is made of a material with poor thermal conductivity, the spot where you touched it remains cooler than the rest of the material because the heat cannot flow in fast enough to replenish what was lost.

With the metal (material with high thermal conductivity), the heat flows faster and the spot where you touch it stays hotter (higher temperature).

  • $\begingroup$ It also works in reverse and explains why metal feels colder than wood on a frosty day (and why your tongue sticks to it), even though they are the same temperature (heat from your hand/tongue flows away from the spot you touch faster). $\endgroup$
    – Kagekiba
    Dec 13, 2018 at 10:54

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