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"There was a time when one old eccentric guy with a notebook could do something important to science. Now even the resources of a major university are often not enough."
- Jerry Pournelle

Negative Molecular Motion  
  A state of matter that has a temperature below absolute zero.  

"Okay, we've had more work than we knew what to do with," McEvoy said. "My lab has been involved with temperature stresses on spacecraft components, especially the effects of extreme cold on guidance systems. We've been working in extremely low temperatures, approaching absolute zero, where molecular motion ceases altogether. A theoretical point, of course, because you're never supposed to be quite able to get there. You get into problems of entropy and energy exchange…actual physical stress…that gets worse the closer you get to the theoretical point. Mass-energy conversion, a lot of otherwise-stable constants that don't seem to obtain under these conditions…the very meat of the project, the reason we're doing it."

Ed Benedict nodded. "I don't understand you, but I think I know what you're talking about."

"Fine. Things were going along very well until one of my men devised a radically new refrigerating pump that worked far better than anybody dreamed it could. We got our test material—a block of tungsten supported on an insulated tripod in the refrigerating vault—down closer to absolute zero than we'd ever hoped for. Maybe we hit absolute and dropped below it…I don't even know that for sure."

The phychologist blinked. "I don't follow. From absolute zero, just where can the temperature drop to?"

"A good question," McEvoy said. "I can't answer it. Below absolute zero you might speculate on some kind of negative molecular motion. Maybe that's what we did get. Certainly something changed. The test block simply evaporated. Vanished. The tripod vanished, and so did the temperature-recording device. All we could see in the vault was a small, glowing hole in the center of the room where the block had been. Nothing in it, nothing. Just a pale, blue, glowing area about six inches across that looked to some of us very strangely like a hypercube."

From The Universe Between, by Alan E. Nourse.
Published by Astounding in 1951
Additional resources -

Thanks to Winchell Chung of Project Rho for contributing this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Universe Between
  More Ideas and Technology by Alan E. Nourse
  Tech news articles related to The Universe Between
  Tech news articles related to works by Alan E. Nourse

Negative Molecular Motion-related news articles:
  - Below Absolute Zero? Gas Is Negative-Kelvin Material

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