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Fahrenheit temperature conversion formulae
from Fahrenheit to Fahrenheit
Celsius [°C] = ([°F] − 32) × 59 [°F] = [°C] × 95 + 32
Kelvin [K] = ([°F] + 459.67) × 59 [°F] = [K] × 95 − 459.67
Rankine [°R] = [°F] + 459.67 [°F] = [°R] − 459.67
For temperature intervals rather than specific temperatures,
1 °F = 1 °R = 59 °C = 59 K
Comparisons among various temperature scales
Thermometer with Fahrenheit units on the outer scale and Celsius units on the inner scale

Fahrenheit is a temperature scale named after the physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736), who proposed it in 1724. Today, the scale has largely been replaced by the Celsius scale; it is still in use for non-scientific purposes in the United States and a few other countries such as Belize.[1]

In the Fahrenheit scale, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) and the boiling point 212 °F (at standard atmospheric pressure), placing the boiling and freezing points of water exactly 180 degrees apart. A degree on the Fahrenheit scale is 1180 of the interval between the freezing point and the boiling point. On the Celsius scale, the freezing and boiling points of water are 100 degrees apart, hence the unit of this scale. A temperature interval of 1 degree Fahrenheit is equal to an interval of 59 degrees Celsius. The Fahrenheit and Celsius scales converge at −40 degrees (i.e. −40 °F and −40 °C represent the same temperature).

Absolute zero is −459.67 °F. The Rankine temperature scale was created to use degree intervals the same size as those of the Fahrenheit scale, such that a temperature difference of one Rankine (1 R) is equal to a difference of 1 °F, except that absolute zero is 0 R.


[edit] History

According to Fahrenheit himself in a journal article he wrote in 1724,[2] his scale is based on three reference points of temperature. The zero point is determined by placing the thermometer in a mixture of ice, water, and ammonium chloride, a salt. This is a type of frigorific mixture. The mixture automatically stabilizes its temperature at 0 °F. He then put a thermometer into the mixture and let the liquid in the thermometer descend to its lowest point. The second point is the 32 degree found by putting the thermometer in still water as ice is just forming on the surface.[3] The third point, the 96 degree, was the level of the liquid in the thermometer when held in the mouth or under the armpit. Fahrenheit noted that, using this scale, mercury boils at around 600 degrees.

Later, work by other scientists observed that water boils about 180 degrees higher than the freezing point and decided to redefine the degree slightly to make it exactly 180 degrees higher.[2] It is for this reason that normal body temperature is 98.6 on the revised scale (whereas it was 96 on Fahrenheit's original scale).[4]

According to a letter Fahrenheit wrote to his friend Herman Boerhaave,[5] his scale built on the work of Ole Rømer, whom he had met earlier. In Rømer’s scale, the two fixed reference points are that brine also freezes at 0 degrees and water boils at 60 degrees. He observed that, on this scale, water freezes at 7.5 degrees. Fahrenheit multiplied each value by four in order to eliminate fractions and increase the granularity of the scale (resulting in 30 and 240 degrees, respectively). He then re-calibrated his scale between the freezing point of water and normal human body temperature (which he observed to be 96 degrees); he adjusted the scale so that the melting point of ice would be 32 degrees, so that 64 intervals would separate the two, allowing him to mark degree lines on his instruments by simply bisecting the interval six times (since 64 is 2 to the sixth power).[6]

[edit] Usage

The Fahrenheit scale was the primary temperature standard for climatic, industrial and medical purposes in most English-speaking countries until the 1960s. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the Celsius (formerly centigrade) scale was adopted by most of these countries as part of the standardizing process called metrication.

Only in the United States and a few other countries (such as Belize[1]) does the Fahrenheit system continue to be used, and only for non-scientific use. Most other countries have adopted Celsius as the primary scale in all use.

[edit] The special Unicode "℉" character

The Fahrenheit symbol has its own Unicode character: "℉" (U+2109). This is a compatibility character encoded for roundtrip compatibility with legacy CJK encodings (which included it to conform to layout in square ideographic character cells) and vertical layout. Use of compatibility characters is discouraged by the Unicode Consortium. The ordinary degree sign (U+00B0) followed by the Latin letter F ("°F") is thus the preferred way of recording the symbol for degree Fahrenheit.

[edit] Temperatures and intervals

As with the Celsius scale, the same symbol, "°", is used to denote both a point on the temperature scale, with a letter (C, F) indicating which scale is being used (e.g. "Gallium melts at 85.5763 °F"), and to denote a difference between temperatures or an uncertainty of temperature (e.g. "The output of the heat exchanger is hotter by 72 °F" and "Our standard uncertainty is ±5.4 °F").

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b "Belize Weather Bureau". http://www.hydromet.gov.bz/. Retrieved on 2008-05-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Fahrenheit temperature scale". Sizes, Inc. 2006-12-10. http://www.sizes.com/units/temperature_Fahrenheit.htm. Retrieved on 2008-05-09. 
  3. ^ Heath, Jonathan. "Why does the Fahrenheit scale use 32 degrees as a freezing point?". PhysLink. http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae64.cfm?CFID=21412834&CFTOKEN=55577927. Retrieved on 2008-05-09. 
  4. ^ Elert, Glenn (2002), "Temperature of a Healthy Human (Body Temperature)", Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences 16: 122, doi:10.1046/j.1471-6712.2002.00069.x, http://hypertextbook.com/facts/LenaWong.shtml, retrieved on 12-04-2008 .
  5. ^ Ernst Cohen and W. A. T. Cohen-De Meester. Chemisch Weekblad, volume 33 (1936), pages 374–393, cited and translated in http://www.sizes.com:80/units/temperature_Fahrenheit.htm
  6. ^ Cecil Adams. "On the Fahrenheit scale, do 0 and 100 have any special significance?". The Straight Dope. http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a4_188.html. 
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