Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fast Talk: Below Absolute Zero

Below Absolute Zero: Aspiring master criminals, attend carefully. What elevates a mere costumed crook into the enviably ranks of true supervillainy? Not only must you possess terrifying technology or some astonishing ability, you must be willing to wield your powers with arrogance and flare! No one knows this better than the flashy members of the Flash's own Rogues Gallery. Take Captain Cold. He's got the requisite gadgetry and the scientific know-how, as demonstrated during this particular confrontation with the crimson comet. His trademark cold gun is a truly impressive bit of kit, capable of inducing absolute zero. As any physics professor would no doubt explain at this juncture, it's important to note that absolute zero is unattainable through either natural or artificial means, a state that exists nowhere in nature. It's not enough that Len Snart can casually defy the laws of thermodynamics, however. Oh, no. To justify his standing as a true Rogue he must be brash enough--or bonkers enough--to best even that! As the scarlet speedster bears down on him through an ice-cold aura, the frigid felon boasts, "There's time enough to tell you I prepared this special attachment to my cold-gun with you in mind, Flash! It lowers the blast temperature of my gun to below absolute zero!" That's right, below absolute zero. It's one thing to be a gifted gadgeteer who understands the ins and outs of quantum physics, but that's what I call showing off. As a scientist himself, Barry Allen no doubt fully appreciates this impressive predicament. What mind-boggling effects might the unimaginable temperatures beyond absolute zero induce? I think I'll save that jaw-dropping scientific surprise for next week. This showcase of theoretical tomfoolery is simply too sizable for one Fast Talk feature.

Issue: The Flash #193 (December 1969)


papa zero said...

I love The Flash. ...and your site reaffirms this regularly. As I have mentioned before - I truly believe that the writers in the silver age really were keeping up with theoretical physics and incorporating these ideas into the stories.

Just to keep you honest - ;)

An MIT team was able to create superfluid vortices at extremely cold temperatures, when the fermionic gas was cooled to about 50 billionths of one kelvin! Experiments such as these are facilitating new understanding and quantification of the states of matter.

In addition, negative kelvin temperatures can be achieved (though not technically "colder" than 0° Kelvin)as it is possible to create a system in which there are more particles in the higher energy states than in the lower ones. The system can then be characterised as having a negative temperature.

Dixon said...

This is fascinating stuff! It just renders Captain Cold's feats all the more impressive. Thanks for elaborating on the science involved here, Jason! I'm no scientist and it's wonderful to have responses such as this to supplement the Fast Talk entries.