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Physics/electric stove burner vs. gas stove burner


I have a smooth-top electric stove and it heats up incredibly fast.  It glows red-orange when on high setting.  Friends of mine say that gas stove tops heat faster since they have a real "flame."  Usually gas burners appear "blue" which I thought was the "coldest" heat.  I did an experiment where I timed how long it took to bring 1 cup of tap water to a boil and the electric burner won 2 out of 2 times.  My friends remain unconvinced.  So, my question is this:  Is it possible for an electric stove burner to be hotter than the fire produced by a gas stove burner?

I look forward to your response!

There are several related, but independent questions here. I'll try to answer them all.

The color of the light given off by a glowing object (like an electric burner or a flame) depends mostly on the temperature of the object -- as the temperature rises it becomes red, orange, yellow, white, and finally blue. Thus, the temperature of a gas flame is higher than an electric heater.

I'm not certain why you have concluded that "blue-hot" is colder than "red-hot." Plain and simple, it isn't.

In addition, and I'm sure you can see this readily, a gas stove reaches its maximum temperature MUCH more quickly -- less than a second versus a couple minutes. Either one of these facts -- gas burns hotter and more quickly -- may mean what your friends mean.

But you have shown (quite well, I must say) that an electric burner causes an equal amount of water to boil more quickly than a gas burner. This question -- how rapidly a burner transfers HEAT to water -- is quite a bit different from the TEMPERATURE of that burner.

Think of it this way: which has a higher TEMPERATURE, a burning match or a radiator? Obviously a match has a higher temperature; the radiator doesn't even glow while a match is white hot. But which gives more HEAT to a room? Just as obviously, a radiator, even though it's not as hot as the match.

The question your experiment (again, a very well designed one, I must say) answered is which of these two type burners delivered more heat, more quickly to water. It is NOT a test of which has a higher temperature. What you did is the essense of experimental science -- do a rigorous test to determine what actually DOES happen to confirm (or disprove!) what you expect to happen.

If your friends continue to deny that electric burners deliver heat faster to water than do gas burners, challenge them to devise a test to determine which will win.

If it makes you feel any better, some of the greatest advances in science have occurred after someone did a test and found something different from what was expected, simply because what they said SHOULD happen is not what DID happen.


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I can help with understanding physics that does not involve eggs. I will NOT help with academic or professional questions, which are NOT limited only to homework. Please do not waste your time by asking a question that comes out of ANY kind of academic, professional, or business matters.


Have been fascinated by physical laws ever since I learned, at age seven, that magnets work under water. My study continued through college and has not ceased even after I retired.

B.A. in Physics (with honors) from University of California at Berkeley.M.A. in Physics (with honors) from University of Texas Austin.

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