There will never be more irony than this.

You know how “absolute zero” is the temperature at which it can’t get any colder?  This is absolute irony.

I give you Pat Robertson warning people against religious scams.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • baal

    We had to give up on iron meters a while ago. It’s not possible to make even a metaphorical one that can take the extreme ironic force from the religious among us. /facepalm and /headdesk might soon also have to give up due to a shortage of enough faces and palms and broken desks.

  • Crommunist
  • Randomfactor

    There’s hope. Absolute zero isn’t absolute anymore.

    (But they approach infinite temperature in doing so.)

    • Michael Busch

      Sorry – due to the vagaries of how temperature is defined in statistical mechanics, negative temperatures are _hotter_ than positive temperatures.

      Absolute zero refers to the lowest possible energy state of a system, where all particles are in the ground state. Raising the temperature puts some particles in higher energy states. At infinite temperature, all energy states are occupied with equal probability. In many physical systems, this also corresponds to a state with infinite energy, since there are an infinite number of states as the energy of the states goes up. In a _negative_ temperature state, you have more particles in a higher energy states than in lower energy ones – that is the sense in which negative temperatures are hotter than positive temperatures. This is _not_ an infinite energy state, since negative temperatures are produced in systems where there are only a small number of possible states (in the case you reference, there are only two).

    • Compuholic

      I’m not sure if I like the article that you linked or not: I’m all in favor of explaining stuff in simple terms but the article is very misleading.

      In a way absolute zero is still absolute and in a way it is not. First of all: This is not news. This has been explored theoretically 20-30 years ago. But now physicists have managed to build such a system.

      Most people think of temperature as the motion of particles which is certainly correct. But this view suggests that you couldn’t have negative temperatures because it makes no sense to talk about less than no motion. It is neccessary to factor in another quantity: entropy.

      As already mentioned, temperature can be described as the motion of particles. But not all particles move with the same speed. Let’s say that you have a box filled with a gas at a certain temperature. Temperature is a macroscopic measurement because it refers to the average speed of particles. But the speed of the particles of the gas follow a Boltzmann distribution (looks similar to a Gauss distribution). If you heat up the gas you modify the distribution of particle speeds. The maximum of the Bolzmann distribution shifts to a higher temperature and the curve also gets wider. The width of the curve can be interpreted as the entropy of the system.

      Of course there are many distributions that would produce the same value for the average. It is hard to explain without resorting to math but essentially they created a very wierd distribution of particle speeds. This distribution is a distribution that could be archieved by plugging a negative temperature into the equation for the Boltzmann distribution.

      The reason why they refer to it as “infinite temperature” is that if you bring your system in contact with another system because of the wierd distribution of particle speeds “heat” will always flow from the negative temperature system to the other system. And since in the macroscopic world heat always flows from a hot body to a colder body they refer to it as “infinite temperature”. That of course does not mean that the particles are moving infinitely fast.

      Basically the whole thing is playing with probability distributions :-)

      • Glodson

        Ah…. I wanted to explain all this.

        Way cooler than Pat Fucking Robertson.

  • kagekiri

    Hey, give him a break!

    He comes from a long and storied line of “prophets” saying every other “prophet”, “cult”, or “religion” was a scam while maintaining zero self-examination. /snark

    I mean, shoot, Jesus and Paul both pretty much say “if someone disagrees with my theology or doesn’t like you, well, they’re lying/evil/demon-possessed/Satan himself/all of the above.” Pat Robertson’s utter lack of self-awareness and absolute hypocrisy isn’t a bug in Christianity: it’s a feature.