ISBN is

978-0-618-08239-1 / 9780618082391

Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold

by

Publisher:Mariner Books

Edition:Softcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Ancient minds imagined the benefits of technological advances that wouldn't be realized for hundreds of years: "heavier-than-air-flight, ultrarapid ground transportation, the prolongation of life through better medicines, even the construction of skyscrapers and the use of robots." But as Tom Shachtman points out in his Alfred P. Sloan-funded science history Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, no one could conceive of how or why humans would make use of intense cold. "Cold was a mystery without an obvious source, a chill associated with death, inexplicable, too fearsome too investigate."

But as we now know, the mastery of cold has yielded innumerable advances, from the ubiquitous presence of refrigeration and air-conditioning to phenomenal leaps in superconductivity and subatomic research--in 1999 alone, Shachtman cites, a Harvard team used laser cooling to create an environment 50-billionths of a degree above zero, slowing the speed of light to just 38 miles per hour! Absolute Zero guides us skillfully through the fitful, nascent growth of this misunderstood, bastard branch of science, from the early accomplishments of Boyle, Joule, William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin), and other lesser-knowns like Anders Celsius and Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit to the 20th century, the integration of ultracold research with quantum theory, and the most recent accomplishments in the field. Shachtman's approachable voice proves equally facile with both the science of cold and the mundane history of its technical and commercial uses, including the global ice trade and the work of one of cold's greatest commercial pioneers, a chemist named Clarence Birdseye. --Paul Hughes

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