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A Question About Heat

  1. Dec 31, 2012 #1
    Hi, I feel a bit out of place in this forum. I am a microbiology student with about as much physics knowledge as is generally deemed necessary for my field, which means that this knowledge doesn't run particularly deep. I do have an interest in physics however, and a lot of questions concerning some of its mechanisms. This will likely be the first of many so I apologize in advance for the imposition.

    I just finished reading a book on the search for absolute zero and a statement in the book got me thinking. The statement was the fairly innocuous and seemingly common sense one that there is a temperature minimum for the universe but no maximum. After reading the statement I imagined an object approaching light speed while traveling through a fitted tube. If both the object and the tube are roughened to optimal roughness for heat generation through friction, then as the object approaches it's cosmic speed limit, motion and heat being equivalent, it appeared to me that it should be approaching a sort of cosmic temperature limit as well. Is this the case, and if not, could you please point out the error in my thinking? Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 31, 2012 #2
    Hello and welcome to Physics Forums.

    Actually it is more of a maths thing than a physics one.

    There is a lower bound (maths term) to temperature. There is no minimum. These terms are not the same and it is difficult to describe the difference in other than mathematical terms.

    You can approach absolute zero arbitrarily closely but you can never actually reach it.

    As to a maximum, no there is no physical principle that provides an upper bound, but there are definite practical ones as I'm sure you appreciate.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  4. Dec 31, 2012 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'd like to point out that while the speed of light is the maximum speed, there is NO maximum kinetic energy. What I mean is that you can accelerate forever, constantly increasing your kinetic energy without limit. You will just never reach light speed, only edge closer and closer. So your thinking that the heat should be limited based on speed is incorrect. Make sense?
  5. Dec 31, 2012 #4
    That point about acceleration clears it up completely. Thank you.
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