It’s the absolute nadir of our universe’s thermometer. And it gets pretty weird down there.
Temperature tends to be relative — the air is below freezing, her fever is above normal. But scientists probe the extreme ends of the spectrum of what’s called absolute temperature: At the upper limit, absolute hot is a theoretical furnace where the laws of physics melt away. On the flip side, absolute zero — cold so cold there’s nowhere to go but up — is almost within scientists’ grasp.
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.
The full text of this article is available to Discover Magazine subscribers only.
Subscribe and get 10 issues packed with:
- The latest news, theories and developments in the world of science
- Compelling stories and breakthroughs in health, medicine and the mind
- Environmental issues and their relevance to daily life
- Cutting-edge technology and its impact on our future
Already a subscriber? Register now!
Registration is FREE and takes only a few seconds to complete. If you are already registered on DiscoverMagazine.com, please log in.