Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold  



About The Book

Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, by Tom Shachtman is published by Houghton-Mifflin and its writing was partially supported by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It is available in a revised paperback edition.

Book Reviews

"The role of cold in all our lives has inspired Shachtman to write Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, in which he analyzes the social impact of the chill factor, explains the science of cold and tells the curious tales behind inventions like the thermometer, the fridge and the thermos flask .... Excellent use of analogies ... [an] astonishing observation ... a fascinating finale .... Recounts the history of cold with passion and clarity."

-- New York Times Book Review

"Intriguing ... a disarming portrait of an exquisite, ferocious, world-ending extreme." 

-- Kirkus Reviews

"Shachtman’s approachable voice proves equally facile with both the science of cold and the mundane history of its technical and commercial uses .... Guides us skillfully through the fitful, nascent growth of this misunderstood bastard branch of science." 

-- Amazon.com

"Exploring the ‘country of the cold,’ Shachtman narrates in lively fashion.... An absorbing account to chill out with."

-- Booklist

"The pursuit of absolute zero may not, at first, seem important or exciting to the uninformed.  But Shachtman -- who has a gift for telling scientific adventure stories -- has done a wonderful job of conveying the excitement.... This is a truly wonderful book: purchase this before it becomes an episode of Nova." 

-- Library Journal (starred review)

"Comes alive in [Shachtman’s] highly technical descriptions of the unique and wondrous properties of materials at only a few degrees above absolute zero
.... This history holds the reader’s interest by its intrinsically fascinating subject matter."

-- Publishers Weekly

"Shachtman ... holds the reader’s attention with the skill of a novelist as he relates the 400-year effort to fill out what scientists have called ‘the map of Frigor.’"

-- Scientific American

"This esoteric scientific adventure story -- as keenly pursued as the simultaneous quest for the arctic regions -- is masterfully told .... In many ways an absolute delight, chock-full of quirky characters questing for ever-lower temperatures and discovering fundamental properties of matter along the way .... Shachtman has achieved an enormous feat, combining science, biography and analysis into a compelling narrative full of explosions, obsessed experimentalists and unexpected revelations delivered from a region so cold that no human could survive a single second there."

-- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 "Downright exciting when Mr. Shachtman turns his attention from the general theory of thermodynamics to the more concrete race to create liquid hydrogen and helium, a task that could only be done at a temperature a whisker above absolute zero.... [The competing scientists] were proud, complicated men, and Absolute Zero brings them marvelously to life." 

-- Wall Street Journal

"A concise and compelling history of the efforts to master and manipulate the cold." 

-- San Antonio Express News

"For a subject bound to leave many readers, well, cold, [Shachtman] has compiled here a surprisingly fascinating account of what cold is and the role it has played and plays in our lives and nature."

-- Copley News Service

"Tom Shachtman’s new and intriguing book ... is the perfect scientific read."

-- Newsday

"A nearly-fantastical cast of characters in restless and relentless pursuit of wonders and possibilities.... Mr. Shachtman’s writing is crisp and clean and often witty ... he doesn’t go about handing out science fair prizes and ... relies rarely on portentous you-are-there voice-over dramaturgy."

-- New Orleans Times-Picayune

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