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.
Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge
Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford
Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Birmingham
Producer: Thomas Morris.
LINKS AND FURTHER READING
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)