6 Insane Discoveries Straight Out Of A Sci-Fi 'Frozen'

Science is the coolest thing in the Universe, and it can prove it. We've made things cooler than anywhere else in existence (and that includes our experiments in space booze). Because of science, we know that you don't even need a pyromaniac meatbag to start a fire -- just leave octodecillionhydrogen atoms lying around, and they'll get together to start burning all by themselves. But the ultimate coolness comes from the sheer intelligence required to figure these things out. And yes, I'm going to keep using "cool" as a pun, and no, nobody can stop me. For example ...

#6. Absolute Zero Was Discovered Before Home Refrigerators

Wlad74/iStock/Getty Images

Ultracold experiments use some of the most advanced machines in existence today, but scientific theory always reaches ahead of our abilities. Scientific theory is how we get new abilities. And we worked out the coolest idea in existence before we had home refrigerators. Experimenters had estimated the ultimate temperature as far back as 1702, and in 1848, Lord Kelvin had worked out the theory which showed that the coolest possible anything was -273.15 C.

via Wikimedia Commons
And not, as previously thought, his beard.

Temperature measures the energy associated with the motion of particles, and absolute zero is where that all stops. It's the "off" state of motion. Absolute zero isn't just an end of the temperature scale; it's the only edge of the temperature scale. The so-called "absolute hot" is a misnomer. It's the temperature at which our current ability to describe thermal energy breaks down, not a limit on thermal energy itself. Calling that point "absolute hot" is like using a child's wooden ruler and calling six inches "absolute length" -- someone trying to sound impressive while clutching an inappropriate tool.

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Where no average man has gone before.

Absolute zero isn't just a number on the thermometer. It's a boundary on existence, the reference from which everything else starts off and expands out, a perfect point of eternal theory. If we work out warp drive, it'll work from absolute zero. If we play a grand unified symphony on superstring violins, it won't change absolute zero. It's the utter, the ultimate, and we understood it before we understood our own evolution. We knew about entropy's Elysium, the perfect place where there was no toil or waste, before we even knew what entropy was. We found energy's end point before we had fridges, and the former led directly to the latter. We found the bottom of existence, and used that theory to ice our mojitos.

Mindstyle/iStock/Getty Images
Absolutely zero worries.

What's even more impressive is how cool it makes us. We're only as far above absolute zero as a decent pizza oven is above us.

everestadv/iStock/Getty Images
Just one more way pizza makes the Universe worthwhile.

#5. We Can See The First Light The Universe Ever Emitted

NASA

Science is about seeing what exists, checking your imaginary ideas, and using the former to improve the latter. Which sounds simple, but billions of people are dedicated to doing it backwards. That's why there are still so many stories about the beginning of existence, even though we can see the very first light that shone.

NASA
Let there be light, and let there be a Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe to observe it with better than 0.3 degrees angular resolution.

The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is the Universe's first light. For the first 400,000 years of existence, that existence was too dense to let light shine. Understand: Everything was too intense even to see, because there was nowhere for photons to fly without being immediately reabsorbed into more matter.

Over 13 billion years ago, the Universe finally expanded enough to let some light shine out through the gaps in everything. And that light is still going. And we can see it. Some of the ultra-compressed matter left behind cooled off, and worked, and improved itself into an astonishing new life. A life which built satellites to welcome that childhood light back after its long travels, and now, together, we know so much more about how everything works. It's a romantic reunion based on true understanding. A love story across everything ever.

NASA
Much more meaningful than any engagement ring.

We're looking at a baby picture of all the matter in existence, and it's a live transmission. And it's telling us even more about the Universe right now. Because the Universe has expanded since that light first flew. The light waves have been stretched by the expansion of spacetime as they shone through it, and we can see that effect in the light, telling us even more about everything. When the light left, the baby Universe was around 3,000 C. Now we see the afterglow at only three degrees above absolute zero.

It's perfectly understandable to ask, "What's so impressive about that?" The complexities behind that image are hard to grasp, even from a scientific standpoint. But when you consider that not all that long ago, we thought that the Universe was laid by a turtle or something, being able to actually see what really took place is pretty mind-blowing.

#4. We Found The Coldest Natural Object In The Universe

ESA/NASA

The Universe is an infinite toy store, everything inside is ours to play with, and our biggest problem is working out which aisle to start looking through first. Finding specific objects isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack, unless that haystack is large enough to undergo gravitational collapse and become a star. Despite that seemingly impossible idea, we've already found the coolest thing in the observable Universe.

ESA/NASA
Looks like Raistlin became a god in our Universe, too.

The Boomerang Nebula has the coldest naturally-occurring temperature in the observed Universe, at only one K (-272 C), through turning an entire protoplanetary system into a cosmic refrigerator. Interesting side note: It's also called the Bow Tie Nebula. If we solved cosmic problems with double-oh-Galactus, this is what he'd wear.

NASA

A nebula is a cloud of interstellar dust, and this nebula uses that dust to turn a dying star into a thermodynamic cooling engine. The star is pumping titanic flows of gas into interstellar space. This gas cools as it expands without any other heat source (called "adiabatic cooling"), and so much is flowing out that the relatively warm cosmic microwave background can't penetrate to heat it back up. The system is throwing out its own mass so that it can use convection and evaporative cooling in space. Never mind merely hearing you scream: in space, the Boomerang Nebula could freeze your face off as it happened. Forget Maxwell's Demon; this is Maxwell's God.

And while what the entire universe does is pretty impressive, if you want reallycool things then good news! You're a member of the right species...

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