Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  78 ratings  ·  9 reviews
In a sweeping yet marvelously concise history, Tom Shachtman ushers us into

a world in which scientists tease apart the all-important secrets of cold. Readers take

an extraordinary trip, starting in the 1600s with an alchemist's air conditioning of

Westminster Abbey and scientists' creation of thermometers. Later, while entrepreneurs

sold Walden Pond ice to tropical countr...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published December 12th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1999)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 181)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I enjoyed this book a lot, though it was a lot of work to follow the science at times. As several reviewers stated, it is in the general spirit of Dava Sobel's classic Longitude. However, this one is MUCH more detailed as far as science goes. As a result, since I don't have that great a physics background, I had to work at it. It would be best enjoyed by someone who knows physics better than I do, but wants some casual and fascinating history-of-science reading.

It's also packed with amazing fodd...more
I read this book in the same spirit as I used to watch and rewatch the James Burke "Connections" series. Raising a family, including shepherding the education of my sons, has forced me to be on the lookout for books like this. We parents like to encourage, what are lamely referred to as success behaviors (I've hated that term ever since it appeared on my job reviews). A book like this combines the benefits of a historical analysis with the wonder of serendipitous discovery and the, all too human...more
A pretty interesting look at the science behind heat, or, more notably the absence thereof. I found it very interesting how long it took for people to truly understand what heat is.

Bonus points for naming an alumni of my alma matter and name dropping RPI, although I found it funny that the author referred to it as "Rensselaer Polytech," which nobody in the universe calls the school.

At times the book dragged, but the last chapter was really interesting. I work with liquid nitrogen and liquid heli...more
While the writing could have been tightened up a bit (a few parts seemed repetitious), overall it's an interesting history of the science and application of cold. I particularly liked the insight into how refrigeration affected the standard of living in the US and beyond- I had not realized how early in the country's history refrigeration came into use for shipping produce and meat, or what an impact that had. For some reason I thought refrigeration was a twentieth century innovation.
This book was a little like reading a meticulously researched, exhaustive, four-hundred page book on tractors. I mean, at the very least you have to respect the effort, and acknowledge that tractor people would really be into it. If I hadn't agreed to read the book so I could teach a honors college class on refrigeration, I'd have stopped after the first 50 pages. I just feel badly for the 160 students in the class, who likewise had to wade through the book.
This book makes the history of cold fun. A bit repetitious in tone, but otherwise entertaining discovery of when and how people discovered ways to put cold to use. The bickering between the Victorian scientists adds a gossipy touch that livens things up. The descriptions of harvesting Hudson River ice and of how you achieve temperatures close to absolute zero made this a worthwhile read for me.
Andy Kramer
I thought this was a great short-ish history of cold. The author mostly does a good job progressing chronologically through history, but it's noticeable that he spends half the book in the late 1800s and almost no time in the last hundred years. I would have liked to hear more about the latest science, but overall I enjoyed the book and would read more by him.
A history of artificial cooling. The early chapters are more humanities-based, leading to chemistry and finally to physics and absolute zero.
In 1995 a Bose-Einstein Condensate was created at 170-billionths of a degree above Absolute Zero...
Kyle marked it as to-read
Aug 11, 2014
Jacqui is currently reading it
Aug 07, 2014
Sambandha marked it as to-read
Jul 27, 2014
Wilco marked it as to-read
Jul 21, 2014
Davo Harutyunyan
Davo Harutyunyan marked it as to-read
Jul 11, 2014
Anthony marked it as to-read
Jun 15, 2014
Vasu marked it as to-read
May 31, 2014
James marked it as to-read
Apr 15, 2014
Marina Calogovic
Marina Calogovic marked it as to-read
Mar 19, 2014
Antonio marked it as to-read
Mar 18, 2014
Roman added it
Mar 16, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
I consider myself fortunate in that I always wanted to write, have been able to do so since my undergraduate days, and have had my work published and produced in many forms – histories, novels, children’s books, documentaries, fictional programs, poetry, plays, songs, newspaper columns, magazine articles, even a comic book.

My first book, THE DAY AMERICA CRASHED, was published in 1979, and since th...more
More about Tom Shachtman...
Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish Skyscraper Dreams: The Great Real Estate Dynasties of New York Terrors and Marvels: How Science and Technology Changed the Character and Outcome of World War II Around The Block: The Business of a Neighborhood American Iconoclast: The Life and Times of Eric Hoffer

Share This Book