WGBH Openvault

NOVA; Absolute Zero: The Race For Absolute Zero


HV (home video) Master 16x9 FHA

License Clip

More material is available from this program at the WGBH Archive. If you are a researcher interested in accessing the collection at WGBH, please email archive_requests@wgbh.org.

Undigitized item: Request Digitization

Untranscribed item: Request Transcription

Absolute Zero: The Race For Absolute Zero
Program Number


Series Description

Premiered March 1974 NOVA is a general-interest documentary series that addresses a single science issue each week. Billed as "science adventures for curious grown-ups" when it first aired in March, 1974, NOVA continues to offer an informative and entertaining approach to a challenging subject. 1996 marked NOVA's 23rd season, which makes it the longest-running science program on national television. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over. Series release date: 3/3/1974

Program Description

Part Two, "The Race For Absolute Zero," picks up the story in the late 19th century, when researchers plunged cold science to new lows as they succeeded in reaching the forbidding realm at which oxygen and then nitrogen liquefy. The master of this technology was Scottish chemist James Dewar, who pursued the holy grail of the field—liquefying hydrogen at minus 253 C, just 20 degrees above absolute zero. When he succeeded, he faced the unexpected and even more daunting challenge of liquefying the newly discovered gas helium at a mere 5 degrees above absolute zero. However, he had a talented competitor—Danish physicist Heike Onnes—and the ensuing race to the bottom of the temperature scale was as zealous as the contemporaneous race to the Earth's poles.

The end of the 20th century produced another low-temperature contest. No one had ever seen an exotic form of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate, which only forms at temperatures vanishingly close to absolute zero. But new techniques developed in the 1990s by Daniel Kleppner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology set the stage for a race to create this truly bizarre substance—and with it win the latest heat in the quest for cold.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “NOVA; Absolute Zero: The Race For Absolute Zero,” 12/06/2007, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 27, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D8B2513DF58D4FA39F7A38FE6A35D3AF.
MLA: “NOVA; Absolute Zero: The Race For Absolute Zero.” 12/06/2007. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 27, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D8B2513DF58D4FA39F7A38FE6A35D3AF>.
APA: NOVA; Absolute Zero: The Race For Absolute Zero. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_D8B2513DF58D4FA39F7A38FE6A35D3AF
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.