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  • Writer's pictureNamrata Gurung

What is One degree ? – BBC Horizon


“Collapse into disorder, Is the spring of the universe” – Prof. Peter Atkins

Ben Miller (the well-known comedian, was actually a physicist for 6 years and did his Ph.D. in quantum physics, thesis: “Novel quantum effects in low-temperature quasi-zero dimensional mesoscopic electron systems”) sets out on the quest to understand what it really means by the temperature rise of One Degree. It all started with a discussion with a lady whom he tried to explain about global warming and the effect of the rise of a degree of temperature, he figured he had more to learn about the basics of temperature.

In fact, even in my everyday schedule, I encounter temperature measurement in almost every lab experiment e.g. the four-probe method to calculate the energy band gap of semiconductor I did yesterday. But what did it exactly measure? Well, to begin with, yes, I knew some basics, as to the mechanism of working, the expansion of alcohol with temperature rise which we name as heating and the movement of electrons that transferred the energy. (Or in Prof Jim al-khalili’s words, the temperature rise is not exactly heating, for it isn’t a fluid that flows which till the early 19th C was perceived as Caloric fluid). Yes, I’ve often used thermometers, maybe since nursery to measure body temperature or just staring at the glowing silver liquid (Hg) for fun, but of course, it was only during my undergraduate studies did I make accurate measurements in the lab for various experiments like calculating Stephan’s constant, thermal conductivity etc. Yes, the thermometer was made of glass, had alcohol and earlier they’d used water, but how did they really make thermometers? And yes, we know about entropy and relation to temperature, but relating to what Prof Atkins stated, and actually virtually walking in through between the donut-shaped magnets, wherein lies the solution of our power problems (the fusion experiment) and using laser technique to measure the hot plasma temperature; Ben Miller’s everyday measurement of atmospheric temperature by climbing onto his rooftop where he placed his own weather station and massive weather station placed @ BT tower roof being able to determine differences in urban and rural temperatures; repeating the Joule’s experiment (who was actually a brewer and since brews need exact measurement of temperature, he also devised the experiment that determined the relation of motion to temperature, no wonder, energy is Joule.); actually viewing how National Physics Laboratory measures the standard temperature with the apparatus of triple point of water and literally staring at the quantum effect of He superfluid (near 2K) as it just flowed past the cork; and finally how did one-degree change really affect earth? (the answer to the Lady’s question Ben Miller had met before he set on his journey):

From making of the thermometer (bulb and capillary) to understanding about temperature, measurements in such detail, really virtually transported me through the excitement of learning afresh of what you thought you knew. This documentary is a must-watch for all curious minds…

As I pass on the vibrations of mine, To you, energetically, You know, we just increased the temperature:

Entropy sealing the answer.

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