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Thermal Dissonance
"This platform, it should be red-hot, but it is cool to the touch."
Aqualad, Young Justice

Simply put, an object or person exhibits Thermal Dissonance when it's not the temperature it should be. It's true that some objects have a very low thermal conductivity, but these objects don't heat up or cool down no matter how long they spend in a hot or cold environment. They somehow seem able to defy conventional thermodynamics and choose what temperature they want to be, because of this the object can be a piece of hyper advanced Phlebotinum, an Ancient Artifact or stranger fare. When touched or held it is either much warmer or colder than the ambient temperature would indicate, with no obvious reason for this temperature difference. A sufficiently powerful Thermally Dissonant object may also be able to change the temperature of its surroundings, freezing an active volcano or melting a glacier if dropped in.

Since temperature doesn't transmit well through visual media, characters who come in contact with the Thermally Dissonant object have to outright state that it's unusually hot, cold, or body temperature. The character will touch the object and either rapidly pull away their hand commenting on it being too hot or cold, or incredulously grab it since it isn't as hot or cold as it should be. If the object is worn or carried, it never changes temperature either.

Related to Evil Is Deathly Cold and Convection Schmonvection.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Film  

  • The DeLorean in Back to the Future follows this, though it's as much a way of playing with the audience's expectations as anything - the DeLorean is ice-cold after making a trip through time, though you would expect it to be hot (especially given the fire trails it leaves behind).
  • in Spy Kids 3D, they jump into lava, but it's freezing cold
  • In The Waterboy, Bobby gives Vicky Valencourt a bottle of water that is extremely cold at all times, even though it's kept in a room-temperature environment. Supposedly this is because it was blessed by an Eskimo medicine man.
  • The machine room door in Forbidden Planet.
  • The rocketpack from The Rocketeer remains cool even after flight. It's later explained by Howard Hughes that the rocketpack has a double-walled chamber into which the fuel is pumped, cooling the chamber while preheating fuel simultaneously, to Hand Wave the possibility of Toasted Buns.

     Literature  

  • This is played both ways with the Slytherin Locket Horcrux in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It is described as being cold to the touch, yet at one point it burns Harry's chest, leaving him with yet another scar. This is because not only is the locket imbued with very powerful Dark magic, it has something of a mind of its own — and a spiteful, cruel one at that.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf throws the One Ring into the fire to bring out the letters written on it. When he pulls it out, Frodo is surprised that it's not hot. It takes much hotter fire than normal to affect the Ring at all, which is why is has to be brought to Mount Doom to be destroyed.
  • All over the place with the Tribulation Force and believers in Christ during the lethal Heat Wave caused by one of God's Bowl Judgments in the Left Behind book series, as vehicles and structures owned and used by them are protected from the high temperatures.

     Live Action TV  

  • Used in Classic series of Doctor Who where Timelord healing can involve developing a frost on your skin (Jon Pertwee adventure "The Daemons" and "Planet of the Daleks"), the Doctor's inhumanly low body temp also gives him away in the Colin Baker adventure "Mark Of The Rani".
  • In Farscape, John (human) has a completly different body temperature than the outwardly human Peacekeepers (who have something of a weakness to heat), which gives him away since Scorpius has infrared vision.
  • In a typical live action Super Hero series, such as Batman or The Flash, someone on a hot day suddenly finds some slick or crusty white material in a non-refrigerated environment and as they are feel it, they say in disbelief, "Ice??" Of course, that means there is a cold themed supervillain on the loose for that story.

     Video Games  

  • In Dwarf Fortress, the deepest level of the caverns has some giant mushrooms called nether-caps which have the property of always being cold, to add to their creepyness. Interestingly, this means that it is impossible to set nether-cap logs on fire— they stay just as cold even when they're at the bottom of a pool of magma.
  • In Ultima Underworld II, one of the keys is described as feeling "unnaturally cold to the touch".

     Real Life  

  • The Earth's thermosphere. It's supposed to be the hottest part of the Earth's atmosphere, but appears freezing cold because there are very few molecules there.
  • Freezer burns.
  • Aluminum foil can be safely touched and removed from a baking pan even though the pan itself may be too hot to touch - this is because the foil, being thin, can't store enough thermal energy to cause burns (that is, the foil is cooled fast enough by your skin that it doesn't cause a burn).
    • Be careful when experimenting with this that you touch a part of the foil not also in direct contact with something else. The foil itself is safe, but if you, say, touch the baking dish through the foil, the foil will be happy to transfer the dish's heat into your finger.
  • The coasts of Northern California may look sunny and bright as early in the year as February. However, the horrific wind chill often forces everyone to keep wearing thick coats.
  • A thermal tile from the Space Shuttle can be glowing yellow-to-white-hot on the inside, but you can still pick it up with your bare hands because it has extremely poor thermal conductivity. See for yourself.
    • This is also why if a meteor falls, you can just go ahead and pick it up. While entering Earth's atmosphere does expose it to quite a bit of heat, the area it naturally comes from is really damn cold, meaning the two temperature extremes even each other out.


Space Is ColdHeat Index    
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