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The strange physics of absolute zero and what it takes to get there | Science

The strange physics of absolute zero and what it takes to get there | Science

Bizarre issues occur down at -273°C, the coldest potential temperature. Now we’re constructing quantum fridges, which might make issues even weirder

Physics



14 December 2022

May cooling with a quantum fridge pressure us to rethink temperature itself?

Oliver Burston

TO IMAGINE working your method down the temperature scale into the realms of utmost chilly, you would possibly begin with the within of an industrial freezer. At about -18°C (0°F), it’s uncomfortable, however bearable with some heat garments. Now, flip your thoughts to the -60°C (-76°F) or in order that explorers expertise throughout the Antarctic winter, a temperature so extreme it may damage human flesh. After which, for the last word in chilly, consider house itself at -270°C.

Besides, it’d shock you to listen to that the coldest locations within the universe aren’t in house, however within the physics departments of many universities. Right here, over the previous few a long time, researchers have been contriving methods to achieve ever nearer to the coldest potential temperature, absolute zero. Within the course of, we have now entered a brand new realm the place weird states of matter can circulation uphill, chemical reactions may be paused and designer supplies may be assembled.

Now, although, the conquest of chilly is coming into a brand new section as we construct the last word cooling expertise: the quantum fridge. Energy up one in every of these final cooling machines, and issues get stranger nonetheless, with warmth flowing backwards and temperature itself ceasing to have any that means.

The query of what it means for one thing to chill is 1000’s of years previous. In 450 BC, the Greek thinker Parmenides thought up frigidum primum, a hypothetical substance that was as chilly as potential and will imbue different objects with coldness. In 1664, after …

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