Absolute Zero Experiments
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.
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
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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Update: June 2012