Absolute Zero And the Conquest of Cold

By Tom Shachtman

Tom Shactman makes the following astonishing observation about human society: “For ten thousand years, civilization had progressed by means of ever greater control of heat; in the twentieth century, progress came about through control of the cold.”

He then proceeds to show how refrigeration revolutionised food storage and therefore influenced the production of food and warfare, he demonstrates how air-conditioning has made uninhabitable parts of the world habitable, and he looks into the future when low temperature superconductivity could lead to more efficient energy distribution. A quirky look at the history, science and engineering of cold.