Technology that breaks science records

June 21, 2020

We owe technology so much from our world today that it would be a record to try to list all the advances that have improved our lives. But if it is about records, precisely technological progress has allowed us to beat a few, reaching limits that science of just a few decades ago would have considered impossible. We review here some of these scientific records achieved thanks to the talent and ingenuity of the human being, who until now seems to have no limits.

THE HIGHEST TEMPERATURE REACHED

In 2012 a curious competition was established between two scientific facilities whose purpose is not to try to break records. On June 26, the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in the United States announced that the Guinness World Records (GWR) organization had granted it the record for the highest temperature ever achieved: gold ion collisions at almost the speed of light. in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider particle accelerator they had formed a plasma at 4 trillion degrees Celsius, 250,000 times hotter than the center of the Sun, BNL boasted.

But the joy did not last long. BNL itself warned that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland was preparing an even higher mark. And so it was: on August 13, those responsible for the LHC ALICE experiment announced their new record, 5.5 billion degrees Celsius. The temperature achieved by the European accelerator still holds the GWR-recognized title today. And since similar conditions have only existed in nature in the instant immediately after the Big Bang, presumably this is the highest temperature in the current universe ... that we know of.

THE LOWEST TEMPERATURE ACHIEVED

Although the highest temperature that matters can reach is calculated at almost 1,420 quintillion degrees Celsius —the so-called Planck temperature—, the limit of the maximum cold is much closer to us: absolute zero, zero kelvins in the international system of units It is estimated at -273.15 degrees Celsius.

And yet it is physically unattainable: since the temperature is a consequence of the movement and energy of the atoms, absolute zero would mean stopping them and extracting all their energy, so it is only possible to approach an infinitesimal fraction above zero kelvins. The GWR record is currently held by sodium gas cooled to 450 picokelvins (billionths of a kelvin) in 2003 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, something even stranger than absolute zero has been achieved. In 2013, researchers at the Max Planck Institute and the University of Munich obtained negative temperatures, Nanoke lwin below absolute zero. This is possible in certain conditioned systems where negative pressure is forced; Atoms attract instead of repelling. The consequences are equally unusual: these systems give heat to others instead of stealing it. The researchers explain that the temperature scale is not linear but circular so that a negative temperature in practice is hotter than a positive one with infinite value.

THE FASTEST HUMAN ARTIFACT

The current GWR-recognized speed record for a human-made apparatus was established on November 6, 2018, when the NASA probe Parker Solar Probe reached 95.3278 km / s or 343,180 km / h (relative to the Sun) in its first perihelion, the point of closest approach to the Sun. However, it will be an ephemeral mark. This apparatus, designed to study the solar corona, will complete a total of 24 perihelions until 2025, progressively approaching the Sun at the shortest distance ever reached by a scientific mission. As you tighten your circle around the star, the assistance of gravity will increase its speed in the perihelion. It is expected to reach a speed of 192 km / s or 690,000 km / h, which will mean 0.064% of the speed of light.

THE HIGHEST VOLTAGE PRODUCED BY HUMANS

While it took human beings centuries of technological advancement to master electricity, any storm unfolds a power that is still unattainable to our means. Recently, a team of researchers from India and Japan released the measure of the highest electrical potential ever recorded in a storm, 1.3 gigavolts, or 1.3 billion volts. At the moment, our brands are much more humble, although impressive enough. In the tests of a 30-meter-high tandem electrostatic accelerator at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US in May 1979, a voltage of 32 million volts was produced, a record that still appears to be in effect.

THE DEEPEST HOLE ON EARTH

If in some areas the technological achievements of human beings are spectacular, in others they may seem modest, although it is fair to take into account the magnitude of the challenges involved. One of the latter cases is that of the greatest depth to which humans have been able to pierce their planet, established in 1989 at just over 12,200 meters in the so-called Kola superdeep well, in Russia. The project was a by-product of the Cold War when both competing powers struggled to seize the record for the deepest prospecting in the bowels of the Earth. Drilling at Kola began in 1970 and continued until the fall of the Soviet Union.

Curiously, and although the Kola hole, 23 centimeters in diameter, remains the deepest, it is no longer the longest; the current record since 2017 belongs to an oil well drilled by the Sakhalin-1 consortium in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, eastern Russia, with a total of 15,000 meters. Although these depths far exceed the greatest that can be found in the oceans, they only represent 0.2% of the distance to the Earth's core.

THE FURTHEST COSMIC OBJECT

It is almost paradoxical that we have only just begun to scratch the crust of our planet, and yet our instruments have managed to observe a galaxy at the chilling 32 billion light-years away. This is currently the record for the farthest and oldest observed galaxy, GN-z11, in the Ursa Major constellation. The finding, announced in March 2016, was achieved thanks to data from the Hubble Space Telescope, which with this observation reached the limit of its possibilities. The picture shows the galaxy as it was 13.4 billion years ago., the time that its light has taken to reach us, and only 400 million years after the Big Bang, in the childhood of the universe. The estimate of the actual distance is much higher due to the added effect of the expansion of the universe.

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