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Temperature of the Atmosphere

The different layers of the atmosphere are separated by their different temperature gradients; warm air rises and cool air sinks.

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Absolute Zero

Absolute Zero


Credit: ESA/NASA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boomerang_nebula.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The coldest natural temperature in the known universe is the Boomerang Nebula. Even that temperature is not at 0oK.

Why It Matters

  • The world record for the coldest temperature in a lab is 0.0000000001oK.
  • The coldest known temperatures in the universe are in laboratories on Earth.
  • The thermodynamic temperature scale measures the kinetic energy in a material.
  • The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that is impossible to know the momentum and exact position of a particle at the same time.
  • It’s impossible for a substance to reach true absolute zero.
  • Super cold substances have unusual properties that are very useful.
  • Credit: NASA/Crew of STS-132
    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:International_Space_Station_after_undocking_of_STS-132.jpg
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    NASA plans to create the coldest place in existence on the International Space Station in 2016 [Figure2]

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With the link below, learn more about absolute zero. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What is heat?
  2. What happens if the molecules in a substance no longer move at all?
  3. What happened when Lord Kelvin drained all of the kinetic energy from many different substances? What did he call this?
  4. What does it mean that some substances become superconductive at temperatures below 30oK?
  5. Why won’t we ever get a substance down to absolute zero in the lab?

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Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: ESA/NASA; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boomerang_nebula.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: NASA/Crew of STS-132; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:International_Space_Station_after_undocking_of_STS-132.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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