Monday, January 21st, 2019

Simple Science: Can you stand the heat?

Posted on March 23, 2015 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press


We all know that when you heat up a solid it melts into a liquid and when you eat up a liquid it vaporizes into a gas. But what happen when you keep exciting a gas?

Well if you heat up has enough, the electrons in the gaseous atoms will leave the nucleus (filled with protons and neutrons) creating a new form of matter called plasma. This is what our sun is made of. Before we get any deeper into the most extreme temperatures we can think of, lets first talk about what heat actually is.

Heat is the energy associated with the movement of atoms and molecules in any material. The higher the temperature of the material, the faster the atoms are moving, and hence the greater amount of energy present as heat. In contrast, the slower the movement of the molecules and atoms, the colder the object is until it reaches absolute zero, in which no atoms are moving (this temperature has never been observed Earth).

So how hot can it get?

The highest reported air temperature across all of Earth has happened four times in Death Valley in the Mojave Desert in California where the temperature  was reached 129 degrees fahrenheit. Two thousand degrees fahrenheit is the time of lava fresh out of the ground.

The surface of the sun clocks in at 10,000 degrees fahrenheit and the center can reach a staggering 28 million degrees fahrenheit. When temperatures start getting really really hot or really really cold, scientist tend to use Kelvins instead of fahrenheit. The Kelvin scale move in the same increments as Celsius, except it starts at absolute zero. Thus 1 degree celsius is 274 Kelvin and 1 degree fahrenheit is 256 Kelvin.  There the center of the sun is also read as 15 million Kelvin. A nuclear bomb reaches temperatures of 350 million kelvin, but that is only for a incrementally small amount of time. Stars that are three times larger than our own sun reach over 3 billion Kelvin.

Around one tetraKelvin, the nucleus of an atoms starts to fall apart. In the large hadron collider in Switzerland the temperatures go as high as one exokelvin over a billion billion degrees fahrenheit. The hottest theoretical temperature a system could have is called the Planck temperature which is 141,000 billion billion billion degrees fahrenheit.

Theoretically there is no limit to the amount of energy we can keep on adding to the system we just do not know what would happen above the the planck temperature. Some scientists argue that  that much energy in one place would instantly form a black hole. When a black hole is formed from energy  it is known as a kugelblitz. So the next time you want to impress someone you find attractive, call them kugelblitz.

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