Fun Fact January 20, 2020
20 January 2020
Baby, it’s cold outside but it’s not absolute zero. Temperature tends to be relative, for instance the air is below freezing, her fever is above normal. But scientists are trying to get to the extreme ends of the spectrum of what’s called absolute temperature: At one end is absolute hot. This is a theoretical furnace where the laws of physics melt away. On the other end is absolute zero. This where cold is so cold there’s nowhere to go but up. That lower limit is almost within scientists’ reach. To understand it, you first need some Physics 101. The atoms that make up matter are always moving. Temperature measures those atoms’ kinetic energy, or energy of motion. The faster they move, the higher their temperature. Absolute zero, though, is almost perfect stillness. Nothing in the universe, or in a lab, has ever reached absolute zero, at least as far as we know. Even space has a balmy temperature of 2.7 kelvins. The kelvin is another way to measure temperature and the base unit of temperature in the International System of Units. Scientists do now have a precise number for absolute zero; -459.67 Fahrenheit, or -273.15 degrees Celsius, both of which equal 0 kelvin. Different materials vary in how cold they can get, and theory suggests we’ll never get to absolute zero. But with an arsenal of new tools and techniques, scientists inch ever closer to reaching that rock bottom.
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