# At the atomic level, is heat conduction simply radiation?

Radiation and conduction are two ways that heat is transferred. Convection isn't really a mode of transfer as the actual heat transfer really occurs through radiation/conduction and not by some other process.

What I was wondering was if this were more general; that at the atomic level, radiation is the only mode of heat transfer. So during heat conduction, do the atoms transfer heat by applying forces on each other or do they emit radiation which gets absorbed by the neighbouring atoms or is it some other way?

Thank you.

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"Convection isn't really a mode of transfer" No, convenction really is a mode of heat transfer. Yes, there is a conductive or radiative step at each end in the common examples and in most engineering applications (and there are many enginering application both forced and passive), but hot stuff moving really does move thermal energy from one placce to another. – dmckee Jan 6 '13 at 18:14
@dmckee yes, but when the hot stuff moves up, heat is not being transferred to any other particles, it's essentially being transferred through space which is not really heat transfer because then a movement of an object in space could also be termed as heat transfer... right? – Alraxite Jan 6 '13 at 18:23
The movement of any mass to a region of different temperature is termed heat trasfer--at least by those engineers who work on forced convection systems. If you have a complex system with bits in motion and you want to understand the thermal state of the system you must take the motion of the bits into account. I think I see where you are trying to go with this, but ... see the comment I left on Ondřej Černotík's answer about usefullness. You are trying to pick useful concepts apart into less useful ones. – dmckee Jan 6 '13 at 18:34
Could the downvoters please explain their downvote? I personally don't find this to be a stupid question. It's just an idea that I had that all heat transfer occurs through radiation even if the atoms are very close. I just wanted to clarify if this was really the case. Turns out that it's not which is not my fault. – Alraxite Jan 7 '13 at 7:27