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Why No Explosion?

Science brain teasers require understanding of the physical or biological world and the laws that govern it.


Puzzle ID:#16192
Fun:*** (2.3)
Difficulty:*** (2.34)
Submitted By:Bobbrt*****
Corrected By:MarcM1098




It is scientific fact that if all else is held constant, the pressure of a gas varies directly with its temperature. In other words, if you have a gas in a sealed, insulated, rigid container and you double its temperature, its pressure will also double. If you triple the temperature, the pressure will triple, etc. This is not EXACTLY true, but it is close enough for the purpose of this teaser.

Why is it, then, that if I were to fill my tires with 32 psi of air on a day that is 2 degrees Celsius, the tires won't explode if the temperature later increases to 20 degrees Celsius (which would seemingly increase the pressure 10-fold to 320 psi, well beyond the capacity of most tires)?

Assume that the temperature of the air in the tire always matches the temperature outdoors: it starts at 2 degrees and ends at 20 degrees.
Also ignore the fact that the tires will expand.

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Jan 21, 2004

I enjoyed this teaser because it taught me why something that I have observed to be true is true. It is always nice to be able to explain something, such as why the sky changes colors. I can't wait until my little one is old enough to ask me that one. Of course, I might have to e-mail bobbrt from time to time when the questions get tougher!
Jan 22, 2004

nice one tough one but a good teaser.
Jan 23, 2004

If the initial temperature was 0 Celsius and it increased to 20 Celsius it represents an infinite increase and your tyres could cause the whole universe to explode. This is why I always check my tyres only on hot days.
Feb 02, 2004

But then if you overinflate your tyres like I did on my caravan, that small % increase (also caused by friction as well as the air temperature) can be enough to explode the tyres.
The teaser took me a while. My physics isn't what it used to be.
Feb 05, 2004

rather complicated.
Feb 24, 2004

it could also be that the tires were not outside in the temp change, but rather inside or sheltered, and kept at a regulated room temp, keeping the pressure from changing due to the fact there would be virtually no effect from the change in temp outdoors.
Feb 25, 2004

there is a scale for which the temperature can be used to multiply. It is called the Kelvin scale and it starts at 0K (no degree symbol) and that is absolute zero. the unit is just as big as a degree celcius.
Feb 26, 2004

I was figuring that the air outside the tires would be increasing pressure at the same rate, so they would stay in check with eachother. I guess, though, that the nearly infinite space of the atmosphere would make it very difficult for atmospheric pressure to change too much....anybody care to explain wany points I'm missing?
Feb 28, 2004

It was Interesting it taught me alot
Mar 04, 2004

Speedy, you pretty much answered your own question. A change in the temperature of atmospheric air won't change its pressure much at all, because there's so much room for it to expand.
Apr 02, 2004

yeah you have to use kalvins in order to solve this one. the formula is 273 + xC
Jan 05, 2005

Actually, this isn't really physics, it's chemistry.

Yay for me actually paying attention in chem!

Really easy if you know it, really tough if you don't ;-)
Jun 05, 2005

great teaser, if i hadnt taken and done so well in ap physics this year, i would have had no idea that it truly mattered switching into kelvins

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