Biology KS3: What is a calorie?

Dr Chris van Tulleken introduces a clip from Bang Goes the Theory in which Jem Stansfield explains that a calorie is a unit of energy.

Jem goes on to exemplify one calorie in different forms of energy: kinetic energy, and gravitational potential energy.

He then explains that kilocalories in food are actually 1000 calories.

Jem enlists the help of an explosive expert to release the energy in a small packet of breakfast cereal in an instant.

The quantity of energy is quite astonishing. Dr Chris concludes that the chemical energy stored in our food is released much more slowly.

Teacher Notes

Ask students to list different forms of energy that they have learned about in physics and biology.

Can they name the unit of energy? Ask them what energy transfers take place in the human body.

After the clip, ask for their reactions, and challenge them to explain why humans need so much energy every day just to stay alive.

Approximately 75% of our energy goes into just keeping us alive (basal metabolism).

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Biology at KS3 in England Wales and Northern Ireland. Also at 3rd Level in Scotland.

More from the series Curriculum Collections: Biology

What a human stomach looks like
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Journey through the digestive system
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Photosynthesis - where does the energy in our food come from?
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