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A Sense of Scale: Absolute Zero

  • By Glenn Elert
  • Posted 01.08.08
  • NOVA

At roughly minus 460°F, absolute zero is abysmally cold, yet at least we can imagine it. Being only a few hundred degrees below zero, it's in the realm of something we can put our minds around. This is not true of the opposite of absolute zero, the theoretical highest possible temperature. In conventional physics, this is approximately 100 million million million million million degrees. In this interactive, get a taste of temperatures from absolute zero to absolute hot, and see why, for instance, even the core of the sun is relatively "chilly" compared to what many physicists believe the temperature of the universe was an instant after the Big Bang.

Launch Interactive

Travel from absolute zero to what may be the highest temperature of all.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Absolute Zero.

Glenn Elert is Research Coordinator and Webmaster for the Physical Science Department of Midwood High School at Brooklyn College. He also runs hypertextbook.com, a scientific Web resource.

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(graphics)
© WGBH Educational Foundation

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