(Image source: LMU/MPQ Munich / Wired)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR LOGAN TITTLE


Science blogs are buzzing over a new experiment — one that leaves most laymen scratching their heads.

The study in the journal science claims to have created an atomic gas with negative absolute temperature — meaning a negative number on the Kelvin scale.

Hold on — how does something get colder than the coldest possible state? It turns out the answer, as best Newsy can understand it, is a quirk of how we define temperature.

If you’re like most high school science students, you were probably taught that absolute temperature is the measure of how much atoms vibrate. As you get colder and colder, they vibrate less and less until they come to a standstill at absolute zero.

But science writers trying to explain the latest experiment say that’s not quite the whole story.

A more accurate description of temperature would represent a loop. Anything beyond absolute zero or infinite temperature would be in the negative.

Hopefully that gets the point across: negative doesn’t mean below zero, it means the opposite of positive. It’s basically a different state of matter — a kind of hot-cold.

For instance, a gas at positive temperatures will always have more atoms at a low energy state, with fewer and fewer at higher states. (Image via LMU/MPQ Munich / Wired)

Negative temperature is just the opposite. Lots of particles at the highest temperature, fewer and fewer at lower energies.

Nature explains, the team used lasers and magnets to get ultracold potassium gas to act in just that way.

The experiment opens up some bizarre possibilities, because matter at negative temperatures has some really weird behaviors. For example, a writer for Red Orbit explains:

“...one could create heat engines such as combustion engines with an efficiency of more than 100% … the engine could not only absorb energy from the hotter medium, but from the colder medium as well.”

Studying negative temperatures could also help scientists better understand other strange behaviors in the universe. A physicist tells NPR:

“People are trying to understand some fundamental quantum effects that have practical applications, like superconductivity. This is an effect where basically wires can conduct without resistance, without energy loss.”

And LiveScience says it could also help shed light on dark energy, which shares some characteristics of negative temperature gas.

Nature adds some negative gasses could even defy gravity, moving away instead of being pulled. Don’t ask us to explain it.

Scientists Create Negative Kelvin Temperature Gas

by Steven Sparkman
0
Transcript
Jan 5, 2013

Scientists Create Negative Kelvin Temperature Gas

 

(Image source: LMU/MPQ Munich / Wired)

BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR LOGAN TITTLE


Science blogs are buzzing over a new experiment — one that leaves most laymen scratching their heads.

The study in the journal science claims to have created an atomic gas with negative absolute temperature — meaning a negative number on the Kelvin scale.

Hold on — how does something get colder than the coldest possible state? It turns out the answer, as best Newsy can understand it, is a quirk of how we define temperature.

If you’re like most high school science students, you were probably taught that absolute temperature is the measure of how much atoms vibrate. As you get colder and colder, they vibrate less and less until they come to a standstill at absolute zero.

But science writers trying to explain the latest experiment say that’s not quite the whole story.

A more accurate description of temperature would represent a loop. Anything beyond absolute zero or infinite temperature would be in the negative.

Hopefully that gets the point across: negative doesn’t mean below zero, it means the opposite of positive. It’s basically a different state of matter — a kind of hot-cold.

For instance, a gas at positive temperatures will always have more atoms at a low energy state, with fewer and fewer at higher states. (Image via LMU/MPQ Munich / Wired)

Negative temperature is just the opposite. Lots of particles at the highest temperature, fewer and fewer at lower energies.

Nature explains, the team used lasers and magnets to get ultracold potassium gas to act in just that way.

The experiment opens up some bizarre possibilities, because matter at negative temperatures has some really weird behaviors. For example, a writer for Red Orbit explains:

“...one could create heat engines such as combustion engines with an efficiency of more than 100% … the engine could not only absorb energy from the hotter medium, but from the colder medium as well.”

Studying negative temperatures could also help scientists better understand other strange behaviors in the universe. A physicist tells NPR:

“People are trying to understand some fundamental quantum effects that have practical applications, like superconductivity. This is an effect where basically wires can conduct without resistance, without energy loss.”

And LiveScience says it could also help shed light on dark energy, which shares some characteristics of negative temperature gas.

Nature adds some negative gasses could even defy gravity, moving away instead of being pulled. Don’t ask us to explain it.

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