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Summary Article: density
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

ratio of the mass of a substance to its volume, expressed, for example, in units of grams per cubic centimeter or pounds per cubic foot. The density of a pure substance varies little from sample to sample and is often considered a characteristic property of the substance. Most substances undergo expansion when heated and therefore have lower densities at higher temperatures. Many substances, especially gases, can be compressed into a smaller volume by increasing the pressure acting on them. For these reasons, the temperature and pressure at which the density of a substance is measured are usually specified. The density of a gas is often converted mathematically to what it would be at a standard temperature and pressure (see STP). Water is unusual in that it expands, and thus decreases in density, as it is cooled below 3.98 degrees Celsius (its temperature of maximum density). Density often is taken as an indication of how “heavy” a substance is. Iron is denser than cork, since a given volume of iron is more massive (and weighs more) than the same volume of cork. It is often said that iron is “heavier” than cork, although a large volume of cork obviously can be more massive and thus be heavier (i.e., weigh more) than a small volume of iron. See specific gravity.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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