What is Heat?
All matter is made up of molecules and atoms. These atoms are always in different types of motion (translation, rotational, vibrational). The motion of atoms and molecules creates heat or thermal energy. All matter has this thermal energy. The more motion the atoms or molecules have the more heat or thermal energy they will have.
The above is a flash file (requires Flash) made from a short molecular dynamics simulation of water. The green lines represent hydrogen bonds between oxygen and hydrogen. Notice the tight structure of water (works best with Chrome).
It is still possible to see all the motions the waters molecules have.
What is temperature?
From the video above that shows movement of atoms and molecules it can be seen that some move faster than others. Temperature is an average value of energy for all the atoms and molecules in a given system. Temperature is independent of how much matter there is in the system. It is simply an average of the energy in the system.
How is heat transferred?
Heat can travel from one place to another in three ways: Conduction, Convection and Radiation. Both conduction and convection require matter to transfer heat.
If there is a temperature difference between two systems heat will always find a way to transfer from the higher to lower system.
Conduction is the transfer of heat between substances that are in direct contact with each other. The better the conductor, the more rapidly heat will be transferred. Metal is a good conduction of heat. Conduction occurs when a substance is heated, particles will gain more energy, and vibrate more. These molecules then bump into nearby particles and transfer some of their energy to them. This then continues and passes the energy from the hot end down to the colder end of the substance.
Thermal energy is transferred from hot places to cold places by convection. Convection occurs when warmer areas of a liquid or gas rise to cooler areas in the liquid or gas. Cooler liquid or gas then takes the place of the warmer areas which have risen higher. This results in a continous circulation pattern. Water boiling in a pan is a good example of these convection currents. Another good example of convection is in the atmosphere. The earth's surface is warmed by the sun, the warm air rises and cool air moves in.
Radiation is a method of heat transfer that does not rely upon any contact between the heat source and the heated object as is the case with conduction and convection. Heat can be transmitted through empty space by thermal radiation often called infrared radiation. This is a type electromagnetic radiation . No mass is exchanged and no medium is required in the process of radiation. Examples of radiation is the heat from the sun, or heat released from the filament of a light bulb.
SOURCES AND READERS CHOICES --
Here is a good applet to show motion in molecules -- you can control the temperature and see in this applet how to movements of the molecules change.