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Name: Amber
Status: student
Age: 16
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001-2002


Question:
Why is it so important to scientist to obtain absolute zero? If you did obtain it someday, what kind of experiments would you do under those conditions? Absolute zero is not achievable. This can be proven from thermodynamics. It is rather a limit at which all thermal motion, except the zero point energy that is required by quantum mechanics. That does not mean it is useless or a meaningless concept. We speak of "ideal gases" , "point atoms and molecules", "straight lines" and many more limiting concepts in math, physics and chemistry.

Having said that achieving very low temperatures is useful because many interesting and useful phenomena are observable only when the atoms and molecules have minimal thermal motion. Superconductivity and superfluidity are just two of many examples.

Vince Calder


Amber,

I cannot say exactly what a specific scientist will do at absolute zero. I do know why absolute zero, and all other extreme situations are so important.

Many experiments have been done under average conditions. All theories regarding how and why things work do agree with each other under average conditions. It is the extreme conditions under which each theory has very different predictions. As an example, Einstein's relativity and Isaac Newton's laws of physics agree quite well for a car travelling at 50 mph. For a comet travelling at 100 million mph, relativity and Newtonian physics are very different. It is only in extreme circumstances that scientists can clearly determine which theories are most likely to be true.

Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College



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