In his latest radio programme, the BBC’s resident polymath Melvyn Bragg looks at this race to the bottom, which really heated up in the late 19th century when physicists and chemists were feverishly liquidizing a wide range of gases include those cryogenic favourites nitrogen – and a little later in 1908 – helium.
Bragg is joined by regular guest and historian of science Simon Schaffer of Cambridge University together with the physicists Nicola Wilkin of the University of Birmingham and Stephen Blundell of the University of Oxford.
You can listen to the quartet discuss how the discovery of quantum mechanics affected how physicists think of absolute zero – and how the quest for absolute zero will ultimately be thwarted by something akin to Zeno’s paradox. On a more practical note, the panel discusses how extremely cold atoms could be used as geological and other sensors.
And for all you budding science administrators out there, Simon Schaffer reveals who he thinks is the greatest laboratory manager physics has ever known…any guesses who that might be?"