Newton's law of cooling states that the rate of heat loss of a body is proportional to the difference in temperatures between the body and its surroundings. As such, it is equivalent to a statement that the heat transfer coefficient, which mediates between heat losses and temperature differences, is a constant. This condition is generally true in thermal conduction (where it is guaranteed by Fourier's law), but it is often only approximately true in conditions of convective heat transfer, where a number of physical processes make effective heat transfer coefficients somewhat dependent on temperature differences. Finally, in the case of heat transfer by thermal radiation, Newton's law of cooling is not true.
NEWTON'S LAW OF COOLING
Sir Issac Newton did not originally state his law in the above form in 1701, when it was originally formulated. Rather, using today's terms, Newton noted after some mathematical manipulation that the rate of temperature change of a body is proportional to the difference in temperatures between the body and its surroundings. This final simplest version of the law given by Newton himself was partly due to confusion in Newton's time between the concepts of heat and temperature, which would not be fully disentangled until much later.
When stated in terms of temperature differences, Newton's law (with several further simplifying assumptions, such as a low Biot number and temperature-independent heat capacity) results in a simple differential equation for temperature-difference as a function of time. This equation has a solution that specifies a simple negative exponential rate of temperature-difference decrease over time. This characteristic time function for temperature-difference behavior is also associated with Newton's law of cooling.
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