Why You Can Hear the Temperature of Water

Most people are quite good at distinguishing between the sound of a hot liquid and the sound of a cold one being poured, even if they don’t realize it.

“Every time I give a talk and I say, ‘Surprisingly, adults can tell the difference between hot and cold water,’ people just go like this,” said Tanushree Agrawal, a psychologist who, during a video call, mimicked audience members shaking their heads no. But research she completed at the University of California at San Diego demonstrated that three-fourths of the participants in her experiments could in fact detect the difference.

You can try it yourself. Put on your headphones or listen closely to your computer or phone’s speaker and hit play on this audio recording.

Can You Hear the Temperature?

Guess which one is hot and which one is cold.

Could you tell which sound was hot and which was cold?

If you said the first one was cold, congratulations: You’re in Dr. Agrawal’s majority.

In general, cold water sounds brighter and splashier, while hot water sounds duller and frothier. But until recently no one really had evidence to explain the difference.

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