Can-Can - Elementary
Cooling of objects takes place along their surface. An object with a larger surface area will lose heat faster than an object with smaller area. But larger objects have more mass and therefore more heat energy to release while cooling. Which of these two variables, surface area or mass, increases faster as objects grow in size?


Compare the cooling rate for objects of different size.


Go! Temp probe, Macintosh or PC Computer with Logger Lite, cans of similar shape but different size, hot water


  1. Plug the Go! Temp probe into your computer then launch Logger Lite software. When the software launches, it will set up a graph of Temperature versus Time.
  2. Under Experiment in the menu bar select Data Collection… Set the time for data collection to 600 seconds. A rate of 1 sample per second is a good rate for Go! Temp. Click [Done] to set this new time.
  3. Heat water in a coffee maker or a microwave oven. When handling the can once you’ve poured in the water, be careful. Tongs should be used as the water may be close to boiling! (Paper towels that are folded over can also be used to protect your fingers.)
  4. Pour hot water into the can, filling it close to overflowing. Place a Go! Temp probe as close to the center as possible and hold it there. (You could use a ring stand to hold the probes.) Wait approximately a minute for the probe to rise to the temperature of the water. Press the green Collect button to begin data collection.
  5. When data collection is complete, remove the Go! Temp probe from the can. Dispose of the hot water carefully. Return the can to the place indicated by the instructor and obtain a second can that is a different size. This will be used for your second run. Complete Analysis steps 1 and 2.
  6. Click the Store button (file cabinet). This leaves the graph you just obtained on the screen while allowing you to make a second run.
  7. Fill your second can with hot water. Repeat Step 5. A second graph line should appear, but it may start out higher or lower than your first trial. Complete the remaining Analysis questions.


  1. Click on the Scale button (the large capital A). This enlarges or shrinks the graph so that the graph line occupies the most space on the screen. Go to the column in the computer data table labled "Temp 1". Double-click on this space. When the dialog box appears, change the name to "Large Can" with a short name of "large" or "Small Can" and "small". This will help you sort out results later.
  2. Did the can cool at a steady rate? Did it cool fastest at the beginning or at the end? How did you determine your answer? (The pattern may be clearer with the graph from the smaller can.)
  3. Compare the graphs from your two cans. Which cooled the fastest? Which cooled slowest? How did you determine this from your graph? In the Data Table below, record either faster or slower for the Cooling Rate of each can.
  4. Formulate a reason why you think one cooled faster than the other. Think of other situations where objects cool (or heat) fast or slow depending solely on their size. Explain these situations as part of your report.

Data Table




Diameter (D)



Height (H)



Cooling Rate



 Note: A Temperature Probe plus Go! Link will substitute nicely for a Go! Temp.

MS Word computer version - cancan-elem.doc

pdf computer version - cancan-elem.pdf


Clarence Bakken
Updated February 2009