How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 821

I have read recently that achieving absolute zero is impossible. Why is this the case? What will happen to objects at this temperature (i.e., solid, liquid, and gas)? — BC, Ottawa, Ontario
Absolute zero can't be reached for the same reason that any perfect order is impossible. It's just too unlikely to ever happen. For an object to reach absolute zero, every single bit of thermal energy and every aspect of disorder must leave the object. If the object is a crystalline material, then its crystal structure must become absolutely perfect. This sort of perfection is essentially impossible. Reducing the temperature of an object towards absolute zero requires great effort and ends up creating a great disorder elsewhere. The closer the approach to absolute zero, the more disorder is created elsewhere. To reach absolute zero, you'd have to create infinite disorder elsewhere. For something to think about, imagine trying to make you lawn absolute perfect. The more perfect you tried to make it, the more gardeners you'd need and the more food, money, and services would be consumed. The lawn would grow more and more perfect but everything else would grow more disordered. And still you would never have a truly perfect lawn.

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