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Animals on earth need a certain amount of heat to stay healthy and alive. How is it then, that animals like polar bars can survive in the arctic? How is it that whales can survive in the deep, freezing cold ocean? These animals have blubber, a layer of fat that acts as an insulator.
An insulator is a substance that prevents the transfer of heat or cold. The layer of blubber on a whale acts as a barrier to the cold of the ocean water. Because of its layer of blubber, the internal organs of the whale stay warm.
Your winter coat is an insulator. It keeps the cold in the winter air from making your body cold. It blocks the transfer of cold from the air to you. It also blocks the transfer of heat from your body to the air.
Here is an experiment that will show you how a simple insulator can make a big difference.
What You Need:
- 4 ziploc bags
- Crisco Shortening or Vaseline
- Ice Cubes
Fill a bowl with water and ice cubes. Put your hand inside one empty ziploc bag. Put that same hand with the bag on it inside a second ziploc bag. Now put your hand with the bags on it in the bowl of ice water. How long does it take for your hand to feel cold?
Ok, take your hand out of the bowl and take the bags off. Now fill one ziplic bag 1/2 full of Crisco or Vaseline. Put your hand inside one empty ziploc bag. Now put that same hand, with the bag on it, inside the bag full of Crisco or Vaseline. Squish the Crisco or Vaseline around so that it surrounds your hand. Now put your bag covered hand in the bowl of ice water. How long does it take for your hand to get cold?
The Crisco or Vaseline is an insulator, just like blubber. It stops the coldness of the ice water from transferring to your hand.
- Ology: Rubber Blubber Gloves 
- Science Bubbies: What Are You Blubbering About? 
- Home Science Tools: Whale Blubber Experiment 
Words to Know:
Insulator – A reduction of heat transfer between objects. Insulators keep cool things cool and warm things warm – like the thermos in your lunch box or the blubber on marine mammals.
Heat – A high temperature.
Blubber – A layer of fat that some animals have that helps keep the animals warm. Animals that have blubber include whales and sea lions, that live in the cold ocean and polar bears, that live in polar regions.
Temperature – The level of heat present in a substance or of an object or person. Temperature is measured on a thermometer and expressed in number of degrees. Temperature can also be determined by using the sense of touch. Human skin is sensitive to changes in temperature.