Absolute Zero - The Race for Absolute Zero

Understanding the nature and properties of cold temperature has required the valiant effort of some of the greatest minds of the scientific world, as you have seen in this fascinating documentary. Once a sufficiently robust understanding of cold emerged, as well as its ultimate limit: absolute zero, a frantic and challenging race began to see who would get there first (or come as close as possible, since it is a theoretical impossibility).

In today's episode we see how Michael Faraday's observation, that pressurizing gases liquefies them and lowers their temperature, inspired James Dewar to liquefy hydrogen, and how Heike Kamerlingh Onnes beat Dewar to liquefy an even more challenging 'permanent gas': helium, eventually coming to within one degree of absolute zero. Recent work with lasers in high-tech physics labs has produced temperatures only a few billionths of a degree close to absolute zero.

But the race isn't everything. Producing these unbelievably cold temperatures does not simply provide intellectual satisfaction to curious minds. It also opens up new areas of research and scientific inquiry as new phenomena, such as superconductivity and new states of matter like superfluidity and Bose-Einstein condensates, make themselves apparent. Even further, these discoveries lead to the production of new technologies, ranging anywhere from brain imaging to quantum computing, that hold the promise of changing and improving our lives.

Very cool...
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