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John Baez says here http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/end.html

What is the technical term for this process? Is there some online stuff that explains this in more detail?

... everything except the black holes will have a tendency to "sublimate" or "ionize", gradually losing atoms or even electrons and protons, despite the low temperature. ... If you take a box of hydrogen and keep making the box bigger while keeping its temperature fixed, it will eventually ionize. This happens no matter how low the temperature is, as long as it's not exactly absolute zero — which is forbidden by the 3rd law of thermodynamics, anyway.

This may seem odd, but the reason is simple: in thermal equilibrium any sort of stuff minimizes its free energy, E - TS: the energy minus the temperature times the entropy. This means there is a competition between wanting to minimize its energy and wanting to maximize its entropy. Maximizing entropy becomes more important at higher temperatures; minimizing energy becomes more important at lower temperatures — but both effects matter as long as the temperature isn't zero or infinite.

What is the technical term for this process? Is there some online stuff that explains this in more detail?

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