Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold
In today's world it's easy to take for granted the innovations that have used very cold temperatures to improve our quality of life--from refrigeration to air conditioning to cell phones--or to make possible the exploration of space or the use of new medical technologies.
But advancements in low-temperature physics, a field that has produced 27 Nobel prizes, have not only produced technologies we now depend on, but have also helped scientists explore what happens when temperatures drop to levels unlike those in the rest of the physical world. "Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold," a two-part PBS television special, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), is based largely on Tom Shachtman's book of the same name. The series demonstrates the impact of our mastery of extreme cold on our lives, culture, and future discovery and innovation.
"Low-temperature physics is a topic that will be new to the television audience," says Sandra Welch, NSF program manager. "The historical approach, which examines the search for lower and lower temperatures and the progress that science is making toward reaching absolute zero, is a fascinating story that will engage audiences through television and the Internet, increasing their understanding of the scientific process over time."
Outstanding work on "Absolute Zero" has earned its writer and producer the 2009 American Institute of Physics (AIP) Science Writing Award in the Broadcast Category.
Complementing the series, a Web site offers resources for teachers, as well as games, activities and a survey. For more information, go to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/zero/.
Credit: © 2008 Meridian Productions, Inc. and Windfall Films Ltd.