Our mastery of cold is something we take for granted, whether it s air conditioning and frozen food or the liquefied gases and superconductivity at the heart of cutting-edge technology. But what is cold? How do you achieve... more » it, and how cold can it get? This two-part NOVA special brings the history of this frosty fascination to life with brilliant dramatic recreations of high moments in low-temperature research and the quest for ever-lower notches on the thermometer.
The first hour, The Conquest of Cold, opens in the 1600s when the nature of cold and heat was a complete mystery. Were they different aspects of the same phenomenon? The experiments that settled these questions helped stoke the Industrial Revolution. In the second hour, The Race For Absolute Zero dramatizes the titanic rivalry between Scottish researcher James Dewar and Dutch physicist Heike Onnes, who plunged cold science to the forbidding realm at which oxygen and then nitrogen turn into liquids. The race continues today as scientists pioneer super-fast computing near absolute zero the ultimate chill of -459.67° F where atoms slow to a virtual standstill.« less
Actor:Absolute Zero - NOVA Director:David Dugan Genres:Documentary Sub-Genres:Science & Technology Studio:WGBH Boston Format:DVD - Color - Closed-captioned DVD Release Date: 06/03/2008 Original Release Date: 01/01/2008 Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008 Release Year: 2008 Run Time: 1hr 52min Screens: Color Number of Discs: 1 SwapaDVD Credits: 1 Total Copies: 0 Members Wishing: 2 MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated) Languages:English
"This documentary was originally created and broadcast by the BBC and then NOVA purchased it for U.S. Public Television. However, NOVA cut about 14 minutes of footage to include plugs for other NOVA programs. I am hoping this DVD release will put that time back.
This program traces the scientific evolution of the search for absolute zero, from the 17th century through today. It is extremely well done. Like many such programs, it takes high concept science (in this case physics) and brings it to the people. There are reenactments, interviews with experts in the field, and historical footage. The rivalries between past scientists, and the repercussions of such, are frankly examined. The creators did a superb job making the topic approachable without condescending to a non-scientist audience. For the first time, I was able to grasp such concepts as the Bose-Einstein Condensate, absolute zero and how lasers can "cool" atoms. I work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where Eric Cornell did his Nobel Prize-winning work (at Jilla). He is featured in the documentary and easily expresses in layman's terms the ideas and methods his team used. There is some humor throughout the piece (including how he forgot to bow to the king while accepting his Nobel Prize!) to lighten the subject matter. Just recently NIST hosted a lecture with Russell Donnelly, the physicist who helped spearhead this documentary. He worked in cold temperature physics, and was asked for input to the book "Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold." When he looked through the book he was dismayed to see no graphs, or photos or any "science." But once he started reading, he was amazed at how the author told the story of the science through the lives of the scientistis. He realized it would make a great documentary that could reach out to the public - whose support helps keep funding for such endeavors. He also spoke about the extensive process of requesting a grant from NSF, working with the BBC and then NOVA to put this together. He showed footage from the documetary itself and I was amazed at the quality. Unfortunately, when NOVA broadcast the show in January it went up against the New Hampshire primary and then the American Idol premier. Yet, it still managed to draw millions of viewers. I am glad they are releasing it on DVD. I would love to rewatch it, and have the ability to rewind certain points that I may have missed.
Overall, I highly recommend this program to everyone. It would be a great tool for high school science teachers, for fans of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos," and of The National Geographic Channel and other such venues."
Jonathan Glenister | Melbourne, Australia | 07/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderfully put together documentary, my 11 year son was captivated with interest. The re-enactments are excellent. There are two distint films here, the first was the best for me as towards the end of the second it seemed to get a little mundane as scientists were spending a fortune to get just one ten millionth lower. Definately worth adding to any good documentary collection."
Learn about the scientists' struggle to create the lowest te
Rasih Bensan | Istanbul, Turkey | 03/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD explains scientists' research and efforts for the past 150 years to achieve the coldest temperature possible. It is very informative and interesting. Even though there is no limit for hot temperatures, theoretically the coldest temperature possible according to the physics and chemistry laws we know today is negative 273 degrees Celcius, called absolute zero, the title of the documentary. It has not yet been reached. The documentary shows in a historical perspective how scientists gradually came very close to absolute zero in laboratory experiments cooling first hydrogen then helium to liquid states at temperatures a little above absolute zero. In the universe absolute zero ( negative 273 degrees Celcius ) has not yet been discovered occuring naturally. It has to be created in a laboratory environment. Only a few years ago scientists have come one billionth of a degree close to absolute zero using laser technology to slow down the movement of atoms and cool them down to almost absolute zero. For more than a century scientists have been competing or cooperating to reach this ultimate low temperature.
Why ? What is the big deal in achieving the coldest temperature possible ? The documentary explains to us that until 100 years ago we had no technology to keep our foods cool nor to cool down in summer. Refrigerators and air conditioners are a product of the technology of the cold. There are even more exciting inventions to be made when mankind succeeds to create even colder temperatures. The documentary explains that we generally learn that matter has three states : solid, liquid and gas. However, when temperatures only a billionth of a degree above absolute zero are created in a laboratory environment scientists have observed in recent years that matter turns into a 4th state that is neither solid nor liquid nor gas. Because at such low temperatures the atoms come very close to a motionless state. According to the documentary this discovery promises the development of quantum computers based on the technology of the very cold. Such computers will be much more powerful than the most advanced electronic computers of today and will work with a method different than the binary digital system of the current computers.
Also using laser technology to slow down the atoms scientists have been able to slow the speed of light from the 186 thousand miles per second to the speed of a bicycle. "
Below freezing but hot!
John S. Harper | Australia | 10/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having watched this program on TV with fascination, I could not wait long enough to obtain the DVD. When it arrived, watching it confirmed my view that this is one of the most stimulating programs ever. Good to watch again, and again, and with a gap, even again! "
Philip J. Gannon | Sydney, Australia | 08/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a "must have". The inclusion of historical footage tracing the widespread use of ice, on through to the search for how low can you get, and the subsequent discoveries which went on to commercial ventures for things we take for granted, is both facinating and educational. The patience of the scientific community never ceases to amaze, in the quest for the truth about the world we live in. Congratulations to the production team that put it all together in this DVD. Philip J. Gannon (Aug 8, 2008)"