How does a Galileo thermometer work?


The Galileo thermometer consists of a vertical glass tube, typically filled with water, and sealed glass bubbles containing coloured water or alcohol. Each bubble is also attached to a specific mass (labelled with the temperature it represents) to calibrate its density (the amount of mass in a given volume). The temperature can be read by interpreting the distribution of these bubbles. The principle of buoyancy states that if an object is less dense than a liquid, it floats; and if the object is denser than the liquid, it sinks.
When the temperature of the liquid in the glass tube begins to warm up, it expands; hence lowering the density of the liquid, as its mass now occupies a larger volume. The opposite occurs when the temperature cools (ie density of the liquid increases). Therefore, if a bubble becomes denser compared with the liquid, it sinks; and if less dense, it floats.

Video: Giant shock wave

Watch this awesome video of a giant shock wave caused by a massive explosion – and then find out how it all works in How It Works issue 23, on sale 14 July

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