ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Absolute zero?

Updated on March 14, 2011

Absolute zero is....

Well to start with absolute zero is the coldest temperature theoretically possible. It is considered to be a theory because it has not been reached by natural or artificial means. Technically it is the temperature marked at 0 entropy. The precise definition of absolute zero is 0 K or 0 Kelvin. In the celsius measurement scale this temperature is -273.15 and -459.67 in Fahrenheit.

To Chill a King

On a hot summers day, in 1620 the alchemist Cornelius Drebbel successfully to chill a King. His attempt chilled the air in the largest interior space in the British Isles, the Great Hall of Westminster, with the hope of shaking the King to his core. The experiment did indeed prove effective in cooling the air for King James the First and his entourage. 

Like most alchemists, Drebbel kept his methods secret. If Drebbel had written up his great stunt he may have gone down in history as the inventor of air conditioning. It would be almost three centuries before this idea would take off.

The race to Absolute Zero

Now that we have the nuts n bolts of what Absolute Zero is lets dive into the history a little bit. 

As early as 1665 the concept of a 'primum frigidum' or absolute lowest temperature was a well known concept. In New Experiments and Observations touching Cold, by Robert Boyle discussed the disputes about this zero point temperature. It had been contended that an absolute minimum temperature occurred with the earth as one of the so called four elements. Others believed this temperature to be within water, or air but all seemed to agree that there is some body or other that is of its own nature supremely cold and by participation of which all other bodies obtain that quality.

The concept of a lowest temperature was refined and first tackled properly by the french physicist Guillaume Amontons in 1702. On Amontons scale that zero value was the equivalent to about -250 on the Celsius scale. This close approximation was improved upon in 1779 by Johann Heinrich Lambert and the lowest temperature dropped to -270.

I hope that I have not bored you with this slight history lesson, these people do deserve their place in the history of absolute zero. It is easy to say that the race to Absolute Zero started with Lord Kelvin, so lets say that the great minds already covered were the builders of the race track and Lord Kelvin the starter shot.

What makes Lord Kelvin so special is that his approach to this question came from an entirely different point of view. He based his scale solely on the fundamental laws of thermodynamics instead of considering the properties of particular substances. This leap forward in understanding was made possible by J.P. Joule, who determined the mechanical equivalent of heat. The basic concept is often taught in schools and relates heat to the motion of molecules. 

For in-depth information check these out!

Lowest temperatures observed

In nature as we have already discussed the temperature does not reach absolute zero. The average background temperature of the universe today stands at 2.73 kelvin, but has spatial fluctuations. An example I have only just learned of is the Boomerang Nebula. This Nebula has been spraying out gas at a 500,000 km/h over the last 1,500 years. Astronomical observation has calculated that this has cooled space down to 1k.

Lower temperatures have been achieved in a laboratory. The current world record (as of May 2009) was set in 1999 at 100 picokelvin and was achieved by cooling a piece of rhodium metal. From laboratory experiments that have innovated refrigeration, air conditioning and advancements in medicine to the future innovations that may lead to quantum computers we have many reasons to thank the first scientists for starting this race to zero K.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      why not outside the universe, becuase the universe is expanding therefore expanding into something, assuming this something has no matter or energy or anything, the temprature at this point in nothingness would be 0 k ??????

    • kirstenblog profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London UK

      sic334 - I am into all sorts of crazy stuff LOL :D

      Anything that tantalizes the imagination and inspires a greater understanding of this crazy old world of ours.

    • slc334 profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      Hey kirstenblog, you might also find "negative temperature" interesting. It seems that you're into that sort of crazy physics!

    • kirstenblog profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London UK

      sic334 - I did wonder about absolute hot back when I wrote this, cannot remember if I found anything on it or not. I would image that absolute hot would be be a theory that is likely to be hotly contested in the scientific community! I do image that after a certain temperature we are talking about pure plasma such as is found in the sun. I think I shall go have a little search and see if I can dig anything good up :D.

    • slc334 profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      Great article! You might enjoy looking at the Wikipedia page for "absolute hot"!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      kirstenblog - It would seem that matter and its associated "temperature" (AND the space in which matter exists!)would have been created all at the same time during the Big Bang. And if the theorized Higgs Boson "gave mass to particles", the hoped for discovery of the Higgs by the Large Hadron Collider should give us a pretty good idea where gravity came from(???) I wonder if discovery of the Higgs will give cohesion to the rules of particle physics OR will reveal whole new "layers" of "elementary" particles that we have not dreamed of? Thinking about this certainly must create some new wiring in our brains, eh?

    • kirstenblog profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London UK

      dbclark - your comment has me wondering if the physical existence of matter creates 'temperature' possibly as a part of the gravity inherent in all matter. Fun stuff to think about eh? :D

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      If the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle holds at all temperatures (including zero K), then there must ALWAYS be some degree of uncertainty (both experimentally AND "absolutely") in the position or motions (e.g. vibrations) of any atom or molecule. Thus we must accept that there is no way to completely remove ALL motion attributable to any particle. In 1927 or thereabouts, quantum mechanical calculations indicated that even a single electron, which has no apparent substructure, must "tremble". If "temperature" is associated with motion, Absolute Zero must remain an unobservable theoretical concept - I guess!

    • ss sneh profile image

      ss sneh 

      8 years ago from the Incredible India!

      Hi! Great hub! Well researched historical data!

      Absolute zero is a theoretical concept which can never be achieved practically!

      Absolute zero is like infinity which can never be reached!

      Absolute zero is like singularity which is a mathematical concept that can never be achieved in reality as singularity will always lie in the past or in future and never in the present.

      At absolute zero there will be zero disorder (zero entropy) which is not possible practicably due to quantum rules.

      At absolute zero things have to be at absolute rest which is not possible due to quantum rules.

      Absolute zero can't be reached as it requires infinite energy input.

      The lowest temperature achieved by humans is in the creation of BOSE-EINSTEIN Condensate for which Nobel prize have been given. -- Thanks

    • mrpopo profile image


      8 years ago from Canada

      Mind boggling indeed! Loved the Hub, thanks for sharing!

    • kirstenblog profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from London UK

      Jawed, I find this sort of thing totally fascinating and sometimes just a touch mind boggling! I am glad you enjoyed this hub :D

    • Jawed Iqbal profile image

      Jawed Iqbal 

      8 years ago

      Very intriguing indeed. Something new to learn everyday.

      The coldest temp. I've had to bear has been -58 degrees celsius (up in northern Alberta) but -273.15?!! That's just wicked!

      Thanks for the insight Kirsten.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)