Absolute Zero

Listen in pop-out player

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss absolute zero, the lowest conceivable temperature. In the early eighteenth century the French physicist Guillaume Amontons suggested that temperature had a lower limit. The subject of low temperature became a fertile field of research in the nineteenth century, and today we know that this limit - known as absolute zero - is approximately minus 273 degrees Celsius. It is impossible to produce a temperature exactly equal to absolute zero, but today scientists have come to within a billionth of a degree. At such low temperatures physicists have discovered a number of strange new phenomena including superfluids, liquids capable of climbing a vertical surface.

With:

Simon Schaffer
Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge

Stephen Blundell
Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford

Nicola Wilkin
Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Birmingham

Producer: Thomas Morris.

Release date:

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 7 Mar 2013 21:30

Related topics

LINKS AND FURTHER READING

Professor Simon Schaffer at the University of Cambridge

 

Professor Stephen Blundell at the University of Oxford

 

Dr Nicola Wilkin at the University of Birmingham

 

Physics 2000

 

Physics 2000 - BEC Homepage

 

Negative Absolute Temperature

 

A temperature below absolute zero

 

Absolute zero - Wikipedia

 

 

READING LIST:

 

Peter Atkins, The Laws of Thermodynamics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010)

   

Stephen Blundell, Superconductivity: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2009)

 

S. J. Blundell and K. M. Blundell, Concepts in Thermal Physics (Oxford University Press, 2006)

 

R. de Bruyn Ouboter, ‘Heike Kamerlingh Onnes’s Discovery of Superconductivity’ (Scientific American 276, 1997)

 

C. Cercignani, Ludwig Boltzmann: The Man who Trusted Atoms (Oxford University Press, 2006)

 

K. Mendelssohn, The Quest for Absolute Zero: The Meaning of Low Temperature Physics (Taylor & Francis Ltd, 1977)

 

C. J. Pethick and H. Smith, Bose-Einstein Condensation in Dilute Gases (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

 

Ralph Scurlock, History and Origins of Cryogenics (Oxford University Press, 1993)

 

Tom Shachtman, Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold (Mariner Books, 2000)

 

Featured in...

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

How you helped us find a fresh way to discover our programmes.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

Hildegard of Bingen

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

The Matter of the North

BBC_R4_MELVYN_BRAGG_AHW-1920.jpg

Melvyn Bragg explores the pivotal role of England's north in shaping modern Britain.

Quiz: In Our Time in 2016

James Chadwick’s neutron chamber

Can you remember what we’ve covered this year?

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.