How cold do you think parts of the world have got at certain times in history? Whatever number you can think of it will be nowhere near as cold as the temperature achieved in a lab in Italy recently. This temperature was colder than anywhere on earth had been before – and indeed it was also colder than anything experienced anywhere in the universe.
So just how cold was this temperature?
Well, you may have heard of absolute zero before, which is very different to freezing point, or zero as we would know it if we’re using the more common Celsius scale. Absolute zero is said to be measured as zero when using the Kelvin scale of temperature. When this is converted into degrees Celsius the figure comes out to minus 273.15 degrees Celsius. That is impossible to imagine but humans wouldn’t get on too well trying to live at that temperature, that’s for sure!
The temperature achieved by the Italian team was minus 273.144, which is about as close to absolute zero as you can get. We doubt this particular world record will ever be broken, since the temperature cannot exist naturally on earth (at least we hope this will never be the case).
How did they do it? They cooled a vessel measuring one cubic metre in volume and made from copper. They managed to achieve the low temperature and then maintain it for just over a fortnight to achieve the world record. While the information reported on the experiment says that it is colder than anything achieved in the universe, we should actually amend that statement slightly. It’s certainly colder than anything we know about in the universe at the moment, but who knows what secrets are still out there that we don’t yet know about? That’s a sobering thought for sure.
Credit must go to the scientists at the National Nuclear Physics Institute working at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory for achieving this outcome. The location was in the CUORE in Italy, which is the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events. While the experiment took place in Italy scientists from many other countries also got involved.
It was an amazing experiment and while many people will be wondering about the reason for doing this, it shows that it is possible to cool something to such a low temperature. Even if they did not quite achieve absolute zero they got far closer than anyone else ever has. This alone is something worth noting and it certainly gained the attention of some of the world’s press (if not all of them).
So the next time you feel a bit chilly, spare a thought for just how chilly you are –and how much colder you could get if the temperature was anywhere near absolute zero.