Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
For those who enjoy mathematical puzzles, I’m putting this one out there for your pleasure.
Suppose we have a 1 metre by 1 metre by 1 metre concrete block floating in outer space. For the purposes of the puzzle, let’s suppose that there is no longwave background radiation at all.
The block is insulated on four sides, as shown in blue below, with the front and back of the block uninsulated. We’ll further suppose that the insulation is made of Unobtanium, which is a perfect insulator, so no heat at all is lost from the four insulated sides.
Next, let’s assume the emissivity “epsilon” of the concrete block is 0.95. [And as a commenter pointed out, let’s assume that the emissivity and absorptivity across the spectrum are both 0.95 everywhere. Yes, I know this isn’t reality, but it’s a thought experiment.] And we’ll say that the thermal conductivity “k” of the concrete is equal to 0.8 watts per metre per kelvin (0.8 W/m K^-1)
Finally, let’s assume that it gets full-time sunshine on the front side at a rate of 1360 watts per square metre (W/m2). Figure 1 shows the experimental setup.
Figure 1. Setup for the thought experiment. The concrete block (gray) is a one-metre cube. The blue insulation prevents any heat from escaping from the four sides. However, the block is free to gain heat by radiation on the front side, and to lose heat by radiation from both the front and the back sides.
Here’s the puzzle. If the concrete block starts at absolute zero, it will slowly warm up until it is at steady-state, neither warming nor cooling.
So the question is: at steady-state, what will be the temperature T_hot of the hot side and the temperature T_cold of the opposite cold side?
REQUESTS: First, let me ask that when you comment, please quote the exact words you’re discussing. It avoids many problems.
Next, as my high school math teacher would say, please show your work.
Finally, please focus on the question and the answers, and leave out all ad hominems, personal comments, and insults, as well as abjuring any discussion of your opponent’s education, age and species of likely progenitors, improbable sexual habits, or overall intelligence.