I think that there is a limit to how much heat something
can have. This is because the speed limit of the universe is the speed of
light. What i am trying to say is that the atoms in matter can only speed
up their vibration until they reach the speed of light at which then the
matter must stay at that temperature it is at.
Is this true?
There is an upper limit to the temperature of an atom, but not for the
reason you give.
The speed of light doesn't limit energy absorption. When objects start
moving close to the speed of light, Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity
comes into play. As an object approaches the speed of light, it seems to
get heavier. Experiments show that an infinite amount of energy is required
to boost an atom to the speed of light. An object with infinite energy
could be an infinite temperature.
The actual limit is related to stars. When a solid gets hot enough, it
melts into a liquid. When a liquid gets hot enough, it boils into a gas.
When a gas (freely moving molecules) gets hot enough, the molecules break
into individual atoms. When atoms get hot enough, they break into
individual protons, neutrons, and electrons. This is called a plasma. This
is the material within a young star, like the sun. When these particles are
hot enough, they put out energy much faster than anyone could ever put it
in. This release of energy is what we call sunlight.
Heat is a form of kinetic energy so basically you are saying that there is a
limit to how much energy due to motion an atom can have. Relativity
top speed to the speed of light in vacuum but the kinetic energy also depends
on the mass of the atom. Relativity says, and it has been demonstrated to be
true, that at speeds near the speed of light the mass starts to increase.
Because there is no limit on the mass there is no limit to the amount of
you can put into the system (assuming you have some way of putting it in).
Not quite. As the speed of an object gets closer and closer to the speed of
light, its mass increases. If an object could travel at the speed of light,
its mass would be infinite. So, there is not upper limit to the amount of
kinetic energy an object can have, even though there is an upper limit to
its speed. Temperature is a measure of average molecular kinetic energy, so
there is consequently no upper limit to temperature, either.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012