Wondering about wild grapes

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wondering about a Vacuum

No, I don’t mean a sweeper. I mean the absence of anything.

I have read articles that listed temperatures of different parts of the universe. Isn’t most the universe nothing? I mean, isn’t it just empty space.

I just read of an experiment that a scientist was doing where he started by lowering the temperature to as close to absolute zero as possible and pumping out the container to create a vacuum.

I have to admit that I am not at all familiar with the laws of thermodynamics except to know that that there are three ways to transfer heat, conduction, convection, and radiation. Also, I know that there is no such thing as a complete vacuum, but can be so close to be considered complete. Now here is where I get mixed up.

How can there be any temperature at all in a complete vacuum? If so, how could it get there? Let me see, by conduction? No, there is nothing there to act as a conductor. OK then, by convection? No, there is nothing there to create a flow. OK, it must be by radiation. Yes, I admit that heat can be radiated through a vacuum, but without anything for that radiation to hit, no heat can be transferred.

In deep space, heat is radiated from stars and warms dust clouds, planets, gasses, etc. around the star. But I can not see the empty space between the dust particles and molecules around the star having any temperature at all, only the particles that are floating about in the near vacuum. In other words, I only believe that heat can be transferred with, through, or to some physical matter.

Not just in space. In fact, that mouse that you have in your hand is made up of molecules which are made up of atoms, which are made up of . . . But there is a lot of empty space between all these tiny particles. That space should not have any temperature at all, either.

I do not believe that a vacuum can have any temperature at all. But, I am told that absolute zero can not be reached. Isn’t temperature the vibrating of molecules or atoms? And if there are no molecules or atoms present, doesn’t that mean there is no temperature? And no temperature means absolute zero, right?

Please help straighten me out. I have been wondering about a lot of things and can’t seem to find all the answers. Maybe I have a vacuum inside my head; sometimes my wife says I do. . .


  1. Think you need to get hold of McGiver or maybe Einstein an answer . You over my head for sure.

    Daddy always said my head was a vacuum. maybe you proved him wrong

  2. See, now you're going to make me all nerdy...

    Temperature is the measure of the average kinetic energy of atomic and subatomic objects. That is, how fast they move.

    Even in the emptiest parts of space, there is at least some material, if even only a few atoms per square foot. And that material is practically sure to be moving at least a little bit. Thus, you have a temperature.

    To be completely honest, in the theoretical absolute vacuum, there can be no temperature, as there is nothing to move. This is different from a temperature of absolute 0, which means that there is material which is absolutely still.

  3. There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don't know

  4. Ben, Your head can't be a vacuum, if it were your eyeballs would get sucked in. (grin)

    Oldfool, sorry about your head hurting, guess you are just going to have to take a couple of asprins.

    Grant, thanks for the info. A light bulb went off in my head when I read your last paragraph. Absense of temperature is not the same as absolute zero. Absolute zero is when everything stops moving, which I do quite often.

  5. DD, if and when you get some answers to this and other questions you've been asking lately, please let me know because I've been wondering about a few things lately too. Must talk to you about them sometime. When I remember what they are...

  6. Hello Ted, I guess we both posted at the same time. Didn't see your post until now. You are correct, there are a lot of things we do not know. That makes life more an adventure.

    Hello TFT, are you sure that you want the answers? But, when you remember, we can talk about the things you are wondering about.