Each substance be it a compound or an element, has a particular mass-to-heat ratio. This tells you how much energy a substance can absorb or emit in a given period of time. Water has a rather high specific heat, which makes it good for heating and cooling-it can carry more energy per volume than say something light like ether. Air has approximately 100 (?) times less heat storing capacity than water, (check me on that), so it doesn't hold energy very well. A room at 70 degrees F feels OK, but a swimming pool at the same temperature would feel chilly, because the heat of your body is being removed 100 times faster.

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Specific heat is an intensive property (like density, color, etc.) that does not depend on the amount of a substance present. This allows substances to be identified using their specific heat. Imagine an unknown metal of known mass is heated to a known temperature. The heated metal can then be placed into a sample of water for which the volume (and therefore mass since 1mL=1g) and temperature are known. The amount of energy (Q) transferred to the water can be calculated by using the equation Qw=mwC∆Tw since the mass (m) and ∆T(temp change) can be measured.1 This allows for a calculation of the C value for the metal since the head gained (Qw) of the water will equal the heat lost by the metal (Qm). The C value for the metal allows the metal to be identified.

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