It’s Absolutely Cold!

Have you ever wondered how cold something can get? Well, this post will answer this question I’ve been wondering myself. 

If you graphed a volume vs. temperature graph of any gas you would get a line with a positive slope. This line crosses the horizontal axis at -273 degrees Celsius. The point at which the line touches the horizontal axis is where the pressure is zero. Gases tend to contract as the temperature decreases, when the line touches the horizontal axis the volume is also zero! However, it is impossible for a gas to reach zero volume (matter must have volume)!  Therefore, -273 degrees Celsius is the lowest temperature plausible within our current theories.

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A graph comparing volume and temperature of gasses with different pressures. At -273 degrees Celsius the pressure and temperature is zero. (c) CC BY-SA 3.0

-273 degrees Celsius is called 0 Kelvin or absolute zero. The Kelvin scale is just another scale to measure temperature. 

However, a temperature of -273 degrees Celsius can never be achieved. At 0 Kelvin all motion of atoms and particles in a system stops. There is also no more heat in the system. A system having  no motion or heat is not possible therefore, absolute zero can never be reached.

Scientists can actually get close to reaching absolute zero. In fact, you can get infinitisemally close to absolute zero but never actually get there. The        closest scientists ever got to absolute zero was 0.45 nK ( 0.45 billionths of 1 Kelvin)! This was accomplished by a team at MIT. 

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A visual image representing the value for absolute zero. (c) CC BY-SA 3.0

Hey, it’s getting pretty chilly in here!

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