Absolute Zero and Radio Frequency
Does absolute zero have a microwave frequency? I have
heard that the cosmic microwave radiation that is theorized to be a
resonance of the big bang is at a frequency that corresponds to a
temperature a little above absolute zero.
No. The energy of electromagnetic radiation is proportional to its frequency. An object at absolute zero has no energy to spare, so it cannot emit any radiation. This fits nicely with the energy radiated decreasing as temperature decreases, so the frequency of radiation emittee decreases as the temperature of the emitter decreases.
The cosmic microwave background corresponds to an emitter a bit above absolute zero, close to 2.6 Kelvin. That is cold, but much lower temperatures are routinely attained in laboratories.
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Wyoming
All bodies naturally emit radiation. The radiation emitted depends on the
temperature of the body. Thus, something ever so slightly above absolute
zero would still emit radiation. It turns out that at these very low
temperatures, the radiation is microwave frequency. At absolute zero no
black body radiation occurs.
The reason this ties to the big bang is that there is a uniform, constant
microwave background radiation in the Universe. As you said, it corresponds
to roughly 3K, just above absolute zero.
If you want to read more (and TONS of info is on the web), Google 'black
body radiation', 'black body radiation absolute zero', or similar terms.
Hope this helps,
A body at any temperture T emits electromagnetic radiation characteristic of
that temperature. Except that a body at the absolute zero of temperature
does not radiate at all. The radiation is caused by the movement of charges
(actually, their accelerations) and a body at absolute zero is not moving at
The microwave background radiation is characteristic of a temperature of
2.7K, which is just 2.7 Celsius degrees above absolute zero. This what one
would expect some 13 billion years after it was at an almost infinite
temperature at the time of the "Big Bang".
Best, Dick Plano, Professor of Physics emeritus, Rutgers University
If one examines the standard equations relating radiation and
temperature, the frequency corresponding to absolute zero would have zero
frequency, or equivalently infinite wavelength. These arise from the
Planck --Einstein treatment of "blackbody radiation".
However, "absolute zero" is not attainable in a real world
experiment. It is an idealized limiting value that is never reached. Another
example would be infinite density. When one begins to experiment in the
range of these limiting values often our large scale models fail, and some
assumptions or notions need to be rephrased.
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Update: June 2012