University of Virginia
Physics Department


A Physical Science Activity

Student Activity



  1. Place the alcohol thermometer in the ice bath. Observe the temperature that the thermometer indicates.
  2. Wait until the thermometer temperature reaches equilibrium; observe how long this takes.
  3. Examine the bimetallic thermometer in the thermostat. If the thermostat has a mercury bulb inside it, students should not handle the thermostat. The thermostat should be mounted vertically on a firm location like a board so students can observe it, but not handle it. Teachers should read the danger warning in the Background Information. Put the thermostat in a cool area (refrigerator) and observe what happens. Place it in a warm area and observe what happens. Blowing hot and cold air from a hair dyer may be a good option.


Data Sheet


  1. How long did it take for the thermometer to record the correct temperature? What happened in the time it took for the reading to be accurate?

  2. How can the air thermometer accurately record temperature? Describe its aspects that are similar to those of an alcohol thermometer.

  3. Why do liquids expand at a faster rate than solids? How does this help a Galileo thermometer record temperature?