Russell J. Donnelly
541-346-4226 (Tel)
541-346-5861 (Fax)


Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold

The University of Oregon is planning television series, Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold. The core of Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold is a three-hour PBS television series presented by Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) and produced by Meridian/ Windfall. The inspiration for the project is Tom Shachtman’s award-winning book of the same title; he also is the writer for the TV series. The TV series is amplified by an array of outreach programs which extend the reach of Absolute Zero into informal learning environments, schools, and community-based organizations, a sophisticated public relations program to call attention to the PBS broadcasts, and a web site with downloadable activities, resources and teacher and student materials. We will ensure, through formative evaluation, effective television programming and outreach materials, and, through summative evaluation, documentation of the breadth and depth of Absolute Zero’s national and international impact. The project is supported by an advisory committee of internationally renowned physicists, low temperature researchers, and educators.

Concept and Rationale

Life in the 21st century is powerfully shaped by the mastery of cold. We enjoy frozen food still edible months after it is processed and live in air-conditioned homes. We use computers and cell phones with parts manufactured in ultracold temperatures. Rockets using super-cooled gases as fuel explore outer space and lift satellites into orbit. Homes are heated and stoves cook by means of liquefied natural gas made possible by super cooling gases. In some areas, transmission and storage of electricity are being improved through ultracold technology. Yet most of us go through life oblivious to cold-based technologies, and unaware of their common foundation in low-temperature physics.

This project intends to open people’s eyes to the ubiquitous use of cold through a prime-time public television series. Based in large part on Tom Shachtman’s 1999 book Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, the series will demonstrate the many ways that mastery of cold affects our lives. It will be a colorful scientific adventure story that spans 400 years: the struggle by many scientists in many countries to understand the nature of cold, to explore its deepest reaches, to create the “cold technologies” that have transformed society, and to seek a deeper understanding of matter itself. (See Program Treatment below.)

Project Goals

· To call long-overdue attention to the remarkable strides that have been made in low-temperature physics, which has produced 27 Nobel Prizes but has yet to achieve popular recognition;
· To use the powerful medium of television to introduce important scientific concepts to a broad audience. The concepts range from the simple – how a thermometer works, how ice cools – to the complex: the quantum behavior of a newly-created state of matter called a Bose-Einstein Condensate that can exist only in the vicinity of absolute zero;
· To explore the ongoing interplay between science and technology through such vivid historical examples as the development of refrigeration, air-conditioning, and pressurization;
· To illuminate the very human process of science. By focusing on fascinating characters, both familiar (Einstein and Galileo) and neglected (Dewar and Onnes), the series shows how science, fueled by serendipitous insight and sheer determination, moves forward, at times fitfully, gradually advancing our understanding of the world.

The Treatment

Program Structure and Format The series follows a trail of eccentric characters ranging from a 17th century court magician who brought air conditioning to Westminster Abbey, to the original Captain Birdseye who “invented” frozen food in Canada. It is an epic story which ends with the knowledge of cold that is so cold that the physical world, as we understand it, no longer exists.

Absolute Zero will use an innovative combination of dramatic recreation, contemporary photography, archive film and other visuals, and a range of interviews to evoke these remarkable stories. Historians, Nobel Prize winning physicists, and researchers on the leading edge of today’s science will complement the dazzling cast of historical characters. Presented here as two 90-minute programs, the producers will be in conversation with PBS and international broadcasters to confirm a format that assures the widest dissemination and broadcast audiences.


The film begins on a hot summer day at Westminster Abbey in 1620. King James I arrives and is shocked by how cool it is inside. Hidden behind the pews are troughs containing ice, and steaming liquids. By some clever trick, the Court magician, Cornelius Drebble has succeeded in pulling off his promise to turn summer into winter. He had managed to ‘air-condition’ the largest interior space in the British Isles.

So how did he do it? In an age when curiosity was frowned upon by the church, Drebble’s audience was not interested in rational explanations of his alchemy. For centuries even the most learned men had understood very little about the nature of cold. Natural philosophers argued whether it was a constituent of one the four Greek elements (Earth, Air and Water were all possible candidates) or whether it was other form of ‘primum frigidum’

The Mystery of Cold

It was only when they turned from arguing theories to performing scientific experiments that the mystery of what it meant to ‘be cold’ could be solved. First to make a thorough investigation was Robert Boyle, the highly religious son of a nobleman who became one of the founders of the Royal Society. On a snowy winter day we see young Boyle weigh a small glass vial of water inside his lab. He brings it outside, waits for it to freeze and weighs the vial again. The weight is the same. The little tube is sealed, so nothing can have been added. The notion that cold was caused by some outside element was clearly wrong.

Boyle had already investigated the properties of air and concluded that when the pressure of a gas was increased its volume decreased (a fact now drilled into the brain of every student of Boyle’s Law.) He had theories about cold being associated with some sort of ‘deprivation of movement’ at the atomic level, but had no way of proving it. Boyle described himself as being like a physician working in a remote country without medical instruments. Further exploration of this ‘country of the cold’ required a measuring device that did not exist: a good thermometer.

Measuring Cold
Around the same time a nobleman in Italy was becoming interested in science. In his palace in Florence, Grand Duke Ferdinand II de Medici set up a laboratory and founded an academy that was Italy’s answer to the Royal Society. Making use of Venice’s famous glass-blowing techniques, he took up the challenge of devising a thermometer that was not affected by altitude and weather. His answer was a sealed tube containing alcohol as a measuring liquid. The glass column was divided up into 360 divisions, just like the degrees of a circle… and temperature has been measured in degrees ever since.

Fahrenheit & Centigrade
But what should these degrees represent? There had to be agreed fixed reference points to ensure that different thermometers were measuring the same temperature. In the early 1700’s itinerant Polish instrument maker Daniel Fahrenheit came up with a solution. He suggested the fixed points should be the freezing point of water and the temperature of the human body. With these markers in place Fahrenheit’s highly accurate mercury thermometers became prized across Europe. He soon had a rival, Anders Celsius, who suggested the freezing point of water should be 100 and the boiling point of water 0. Others thought the idea of hot things having a lower temperature than cold things was too confusing, so the scale was turned upside down. It survives to this day.

The Ice Trade
In the early 1800’s while scientists were trying to understand the nature of cold, there were businessmen poised to exploit its commercial potential. Across the Atlantic in New England an extraordinary entrepreneur named Frederic Tudor saw that money could be made from ice. In the days before refrigeration, ice chests were one of the easiest ways of keeping things cool. Tudor began by cutting blocks of ice from Walden Pond, but within a few years he was masterminding a winter harvest of thousands of tons of ice from lakes all across the North East, using horse drawn cutters and steam powered lifts to move the blocks into huge warehouses. Soon he was supplying not just North America, but the Caribbean, South America and the Far East. Often delivering personally the ice carried in ships, he became the world’s ‘Ice King,”

How Ice Cools
Ice is much more effective at keeping things cool than cold water because of the energy wrapped up in turning liquid water into solid ice. This transitional energy is called latent heat and it involves a startling amount of energy. The amount of heat needed to convert the ice back into water at 0ºC is the same amount needed to raise the temperature of that water to 80ºC! Ice cools by absorbing this large amount of heat energy that comes from the warmer foods placed near it.

The impact of the ice trade was far-reaching. Cities like New York became more able to expand because large populations could live a long way from their supply of food. The railroad carried meat in ice cooled boxcars from the Midwestern plains to the big cities, allowing restaurants to serve fresh steaks thousands of miles from where their meals once roamed. To satisfy the huge demand, new ways of making ice were needed. But before there could be any practical advances in refrigeration there needed to be theoretical advances in the understanding of cold

What is Cold?
By now scientists could measure cold, but they still had little idea of what it was. It took the work of an exiled British spy and munitions expert called Benjamin Thompson to begin to understand the principles of heat and cold. While working in Bavaria, boring cannons, he saw that if he placed a kettle of water on a cannon barrel while it was being drilled out with a dull steel bit, the water in the kettle would boil after a couple of hours. He argued that the source of the heat was the motion of particles caused by the friction between the drill and the barrel.

A more complete understanding of the nature of heat and cold came from the work of three scientists working at the height of the Industrial Revolution. One was a French engineer, Sadi Carnot, who was trying to improve the efficiency of steam engines. The other two were English scientists from very different social backgrounds. James Joule was the son of a Manchester brewer, who ran experiments in his home laboratory rather than managing the family business; William Thomson, who eventually became Lord Kelvin, was a young Cambridge physics prodigy. Together they established the laws of thermodynamics that affirmed that heat was the product of the movement of molecules. The faster the molecules moved - the higher the temperature. Cold was simply the slowing down of that molecular motion, suggesting there must come a point when the movement stops: an Absolute Zero (the subject of the next episode).

The Mastery of Cold
This story continues with the liquefying of gases by Faraday and others, which enabled much lower temperatures to be reached, setting the stage for the commercial application of cold to refrigeration and air conditioning,

In 1912 Clarence Birdseye was ice fishing in Labrador in very low temperatures (around –30F) When he threw his day’s catch over his shoulder, the fish froze solid within minutes. A few weeks later when he thawed them out and cooked them, he noticed they tasted really good. He had discovered the secret of flash freezing. After a series of scientific investigations into freezing animal and vegetable tissue, he discovered the reason: regular freezing caused large ice crystals to grow, which ruptured the cell walls; whereas fast-freezing caused only small crystals to form which preserved the cell structure

It took another ten years to establish a commercial fast freezing technique that would mimic the natural process he had experienced in Labrador. In 1923 the frozen food industry was born.
Five years later a million pounds of quick-frozen foods were being sold annually across the U.S. In l945, within days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, meatpackers in Chicago de-boned, quick-froze and shipped to the Pacific a million pounds of chicken, beef, and pork. The technology of food production and consumption had been changed forever. Refrigeration and freezers made it possible for large cities to expand even further.

As well as expanding outwards, cities were also expanding upwards. The advent of the skyscraper posed a new problem for cold technology. Above twenty stories, it was too windy to open windows, so another way of aerating the building was needed. In the final part of this film we complete the circle and return to the subject of our opening in Westminster Abbey: air conditioning. It was a term first used by Stuart Cramer to describe the machinery he had installed in a Southern textile factory in 1905, to control the humidity, temperature and circulation of the air. The increased use of air conditioning in the 20th Century had a profound impact on the American way of life: in movie theatres, offices, assembly lines, and even in the home. Cultural historians lamented the loss of community as the front porch was 7 no longer a magnet for neighborhood socializing -- the hot humid summers of the South were now best escaped by going indoors and turning the switch to ‘max.’

From then on life in America was cool.


At the end of the 19th century, while Polar explorers were racing to reach the coldest places on Earth, there was a less publicized, but equally important race -- to reach the ultimate extreme of cold -- Absolute Zero. Fierce national and personal rivalries develop across Europe as scientists began to explore the weird things that happen when temperatures drops hundreds of degrees below the freezing point of water. The film follows the extraordinary discoveries of super-conductivity and superfluidity. It ends with another race to produce a new form of matter that Albert Einstein predicted would exist just a degree or two above Absolute Zero.

The Tortoise and The Hare
The two front-runners in the race towards Absolute Zero were flamboyant Scotsman James Dewar, and methodical Dutchman, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. Their strategies were as different as their personalities. Onnes was the tortoise to Dewar's hare. Onnes believed that careful measurement was the source of all knowledge. Dewar believed that pioneering work had to be tackled in a more imaginative way. This is a story of setbacks, triumphs, bitterness and betrayal. The stakes were high: not only glory but also the chance of a Nobel Prize.

Using dramatic reconstruction of key events we follow the fortunes of these two men. We meet James Dewar giving one of his highly popular lectures at the Royal Institution in London in 1888. The audience, in evening dress, is thrilled by his demonstrations that are performed like magic tricks. He takes a rubber ball, bounces it tantalizingly in front of his audience and then plunges it into liquid nitrogen. After a few moments, he hurls the frozen ball up into the air and the crowd gasps as it shatters on the floor, then breaks into thunderous applause. As Dewar bows he looks down at the shattered fragments, recalling an earlier experience of the cold.

He was ten years old when he fell through the ice on a pond, an accident that almost cost his life. Stricken with rheumatic fever and confined to bed for long periods, he developed an interest in science and a mechanical adroitness that served him well in a career that became obsessed with liquefying gases and reaching ever lower temperatures.

There were further obstacles. Adding pressure was not enough to liquefy certain gases. (Earlier experimenters had dropped cylinders of compressed oxygen and nitrogen into the sea at depths of over a mile, where the pressure was 200 times the atmospheric pressure on the surface, but the gases would not turn to liquid.) The only way of achieving the goal was to use a cascade process. This involved cooling one gas under pressure till it became a liquid, then using the resulting super-cooled liquid to cool and liquefy the next gas, each step producing a lower temperature. Oxygen became liquid at -180ºC but the prospect of trying to reach -250ºC (degrees) (at which hydrogen was expected to liquefy) was a formidable challenge. Scientists were uncertain whether they would ever be able to reach the summit of Mount Hydrogen.

Dewar’s archrival in this race was the brilliant Dutch scientist, Kamerlingh Onnes. At the age of 29, he became head of his laboratory in Leiden. Despite his youth, Onnes had a much more sober disposition than Dewar and preferred the slow accumulation of resources to showmanship. Unfortunately, after a minor explosion, Leiden’s nervous town fathers ordered the lab shut down. It did not re-open for several years, and only after Onnes appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court.

This gave Dewar the chance to pull ahead. But the path to victory was complicated by his egocentric, secretive personality, which won him few friends. His devastating critiques of his colleagues’ science made him important enemies. Among them was the British chemist William Ramsay who had become the world’s greatest expert in “noble” gases. When Ramsay needed a collaborator to liquefy argon, rather than work with Dewar at the Royal Institution, he decided to collaborate with a Polish scientist called Karol Olszewski. Dewar soon lashed out at both.

The Ascent of Mount Hydrogen
Dewar toiled for two decades in his basement laboratory at the Royal Institution, and in 1888 was finally ready to liquefy hydrogen. His assistants cranked up the jumble of apparatus which lowered the temperature by a cascade using chloromethane to liquefy ethylene, then ethylene to liquefy oxygen, and finally, oxygen to liquefy hydrogen. A clear liquid collected in the vessel. Dewar was so excited that he immediately took a tube of liquid oxygen and plunged it into the newly liquefied hydrogen. The tube of oxygen solidified and turned blue, proving how much colder liquid hydrogen was – only 20º K above Absolute Zero.

For a moment it seemed like Dewar’s conquest of hydrogen was the end of the race, but his triumph was short-lived. His old enemy Ramsay had found a new gas called helium. Preliminary calculations showed that it could liquefy only at five or ten degrees above Absolute Zero. Now Dewar’s savaging of Ramsay came back to haunt him. To liquefy helium he would have to have an ample supply, and Ramsay would not give him any. Dewar set up a plant to obtain helium gas from the hot springs at Bath. Onnes, also desperate for helium, wrote to ask if he might share in those Bath supplies. Dewar replied that he would only make helium available after he had made some progress. Onnes knew that would be too late.

The Tortoise Triumphs
Unable to rely on Dewar, Onnes arranged for a boatload of monazite sands from gravel pits in North Carolina to be shipped to Holland. These sands contained helium, and when they arrived in 1905, four chemists began the laborious work of extracting enough helium for experiments. It was three years before they were ready. Meanwhile, in Dewar’s laboratory a costly mistake had allowed several months’ supply of helium gas to escape into the air. Dewar was devastated. He knew he was out of the race.

In Leiden on July 10, 1908, Onnes is supervising his small army of student technicians and assistants as they prepare for a five-step cascade assault on Mt. Helium. By late afternoon, he was down to his last bottle of liquid hydrogen. If he did not succeed in this attempt, he would have to halt experiments, until more liquid hydrogen could be produced. Colleagues from other departments gathered to watch, and one finally suggested that Onnes crawl under the apparatus with a flashlight to see if liquid helium had collected in the cryostat. It had. Helium was liquefied at 4.5K Dewar’s defeat was final. Unable to compete any longer because he lacked a supply of liquid helium, Dewar abandoned all further low temperature research.

The Weird World of the Super Cold
Onnes began investigating how electrical resistance changed at these temperatures, and christened this sudden disappearance of electrical resistance “superconductivity.” But what were the underlying principles that caused such a sudden change?

In the 1920’s Quantum Theory was emerging as the most plausible explanation for some of these strange effects. During this time a young Indian physicist, called Satyendra Bose, sent Albert Einstein a paper Bose had been unable to publish. Einstein immediately realized its importance and began work on Bose’s statistical equations. He soon postulated that somewhere near Absolute Zero, a peculiar condensation would occur resulting in a new state of matter. It has been given the name BEC (for Bose-Einstein Condensation.) It was first viewed as little more than a scientific puzzle – an alluring but untestable theory, because the technology for reaching temperatures that low did not exist. Yet the idea was tantalizing. A new race began.

Gravity-Defying Fluid
Another mysterious phenomena had also emerged: the Houdini-like ability of superfluid helium to escape from a seemingly impermeable vessel, to defy gravity by creeping up over the sides of containers, and to produce spectacular fountains when heated. What could account for this?

In the 1930’s, German refugee Fritz London, who had escaped the Nazis to live in Britain, came up with a brilliant explanation: he suggested that a super-conductor should be thought of not as a collection of individual atoms, but as a single huge atom whose electrons are acting in unison. He thought the sudden switch from liquid helium to superfluid helium was a manifestation of the peculiar condensation Einstein had predicted. London suggested that as the helium atoms reach a temperature of 2.2 K, their near-zero velocity expanded their individual wave lengths so much that they overlap. They lose their identity and act as a single coherent entity, which allows them to flow without friction. Over the next few decades the mechanism of superconductivity and superfluidity became better understood. By the 1970s, scientists were ready to begin the final leg of the race for Absolute Zero, to actually produce a Bose Einstein Condensate.

The Puzzle of UltraCold
New techniques were needed. The first was laser cooling using a stream of light particles to collide with atoms and slow them down. At their lab in Colorado Carl Wieman and Eric Cornell used this method to trap atoms. The laser slowed the atoms causing a drop in temperature, but not enough to form a condensate. On the East Coast at MIT, Wolfgang Ketterle used another method called magnetic trapping. Every atom is like a miniature magnet, with positive and negative poles. By surrounding a vacuum chamber with superconducting magnets Ketterle was able to confine their clouds of atoms in the center of the chamber, away from the warmer walls.

Across the MIT campus in another lab Daniel Kleppner was experimenting with a technique called evaporative cooling. Just as a cup of coffee cools when the most energetic surface molecules evaporate as steam, Kleppner discovered that by gradually weakening his magnetic trap he could allow the more energetic atoms to escape, leaving only the most sluggish (‘colder’) atoms in the trap. This drove the temperature down still further. Kleppner had been working to achieve a condensate of hydrogen atoms since 1976, and by the early ‘90s he had a big lead on the rest of the world. But then he ran into unforeseen difficulties. Just like Dewar in the previous century, he began to fall behind.

Meanwhile, out in Colorado Wieman and Cornell used a combination of techniques to bring the temperature down to 170 billionths of a degree above Absolute Zero. Although plagued by leaks of atoms, on June 5, 1995, they successfully created a Bose-Einstein Condensate in a cloud of 3,000 rubidium atoms -- probably the first BEC to exist anywhere in the universe. At MIT, Ketterle was right behind, creating a condensate of sodium atoms. Ketterle went on to create larger BEC’s – pencil shaped condensates of 10 million atoms or more, some lasting as much as a minute and so large he was even able to make movies of these floating blobs of quantum jelly. For the first time it was possible to witness the quantum world with the naked eye.

By actually producing a Bose-Einstein Condensate these researchers had discovered that the great puzzles of the ultracold were really variations on a theme, and had a single solution. If individual particles were cold enough, they no longer repelled each other, but acted as one. In a final demonstration, Lene Vestergaard Hau at Harvard, shows how the ultracold can stop light in its tracks and then start it again. By using a finely tuned web of lasers, she is able to make the photons of light so slow they can be outrun by a human athlete. Perhaps this is the culmination of the race for Absolute Zero… perhaps not. There is a laboratory in Helsinki that may well produce the lowest temperatures in the universe…

Outcomes of the Planning Grant (0102287, $54,612, 3/1/01)

Shortly after Absolute Zero received an NSF planning grant in February 200l, Russell Donnelly convened a core group of the distinguished Advisory Committee. For two days scientists, historians, science educators and filmmakers honed in on story lines, themes, protagonists, program structure and concepts to be featured in these programs; and on creative ways to convey important scientific ideas to a broad audience. Based on these discussions, detailed outlines were prepared for the proposed episodes. After a lengthy review they became a content map for the series, and are the basis of the summaries that follow (Program Outlines are in Document 1.)

During the planning period, the project benefited from two front-end evaluations by Barbara Flagg of Multimedia Research: a) a survey of published literature dealing with audience knowledge of relevant science concepts; and b) comments on program descriptions by high school science teachers. See the narrative's Need section and Document 1 for further details.

Project Outcomes

The outcomes of the presentation of Absolute Zero, with all the collateral outreach activities and materials, will impact upon viewers’ and participants’ knowledge, interests, and/or behavior related to science in several ways.
· Viewers will have new insights into a generally inaccessible area of science;
· Viewers will understand science as a human activity, carried out by “real” people, both historically and in today’s world;
· The series and collateral activities will expand viewers’/participants’ understanding of the scientific process (e.g., the textbook definition and the way it usually occurs).
· The series will reach a diverse audience through various presentation styles beyond the television broadcasts;
· The impact will extend far beyond the television presentation into activities on the web, in science centers, and in classrooms and laboratories at the secondary school and college levels.

Need and Opportunity

Important products (Document 1) of the planning grant establishing need were two Multimedia Research studies: 1) "Adults’ and Adolescents’ Personal Theories Related to the Physics of Cold" reviewed published literature that revealed substantial differences between personal theories and models held by the lay public and theories and models used by scientists. The review suggested that there is a great opportunity for Absolute Zero to raise awareness in the following areas: particulate nature of energy; kinetic molecular model; heat energy and temperature; laws of thermodynamics; electricity; and quantum mechanics.

2) "Evaluation of Program Descriptions" gathered feedback from high school science teachers in response to written descriptions of proposed programs. Teachers provided feedback for themselves and their students concerning appeal and content for each program and the whole series. The study indicates that the series fills a substantial educational need for understanding historical and cultural underpinnings of modern science, for visualizations of topics usually covered in a lecture format, for demonstration of the often obscure relationships between basic research and applied technology, and for showing how modern science is continuing to uncover new phenomena (e.g., superconductivity) and states of matter (Bose-Einstein Condensation). The teachers also suggested ways the programs could be made more germane to the classroom and more useful to them as they teach to curricula based on the National Science Standards. These recommendations will be incorporated into the final scripts and outreach materials.

The project also is an opportunity for science museums to introduce modern physics into their array of visitor experiences. Even the most progressive of science centers struggle to deal effectively with current science, so the programs and activities introduced through Absolute Zero have the potential to stimulate new and creative thinking in the science center world. The project will introduce the science of cold to museum visitors, and provide models for presentations of this subject that can be adopted by museums large and small.

Dissemination/Target Audiences

Absolute Zero is intended for PBS and international broadcast in the winter of 2005/6, with later broadcast on cable. Given the key roles European scientists and laboratories play in this story and the international character of today’s science, the series should be attractive to a range of overseas broadcasters. (Britain’s Channel 4 has already expressed interest in a licensing pre-sale.) Although television audiences will be comprised largely of adults, Absolute Zero – and its companion Web site and outreach materials – should have great appeal to younger audiences in classrooms and informal settings. Because of the heretofore-ignored role of cold in shaping our lives and today’s technologies, there is enormous potential for educational and home video distribution. Built into series’ promotion, the Web site, and outreach in support of the series are strategies for drawing in audiences who do not normally access science programming.

The likely viewership for the PBS presentation of Absolute Zero can be based on the performance of comparable, multi-program science series. The initial presentation of Absolute Zero should attract about 7.2 million gross household impressions, with an additional 16.2 gross household impressions attracted to the repeat showings. In addition, we estimate that several million students will see all or part of the series as part of middle and high school science courses, and have further contact with the project through the science museum activities and other venues such as libraries and community centers.

The public relations plan has very explicit elements designed to use the culturally-specific media to call attention to Absolute Zero. Numerous African-American and Hispanic print media are identified. Several of the national organizations which are partnering with Absolute Zero have well-defined channels for working with underserved audiences; the content of programming and materials will be shaped for those specific audiences.


David Heil & Associates, Inc. will manage the outreach. National, local and regional partners will promote on-going active learning about low-temperature physics, the nature of cold, and the idea that scientists are “real” people. Described briefly below and detailed in Document 2, this outreach strategy will extend the life and impact of the broadcast, serve as a catalyst for future community-based science collaboration, and provide learning experiences to diverse audiences.

National Partnerships and Alliances – The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Institute of Physics (AIP), American Library Association (ALA), Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC), and National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) will support the national outreach.

Regional and Local Partnerships – The National Outreach Network, comprised of eight leading science museums (McWane Center, Birmingham, AL; The Imaginarium, Anchorage, AK; California Science Center, Los Angeles, CA; Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, CO; St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis, MO; New York Hall of Science, New York, NY; Discovery Place, Charlotte, NC; and COSI Toledo, Toledo, OH), will be the framework for institutionalizing and disseminating a range of outreach programs and services. Additional local and regional partnerships will include libraries, PBS stations, Boys & Girls Clubs, scout troops, chambers of commerce, universities and corporations.

Primary Components of Absolute Zero Educational Outreach Plan

National Outreach Network – Each Network museum has committed resources to implement the Absolute Zero outreach components, including partnering with their communities, delivering programs and distributing print materials as described below.

Components for Educators – Guides for classroom educators, youth group leaders and others will contain activities, science background, resources and extensions to promote on-going learning about the science of cold; Special programs for students will be supported by Network museum Demonstration Kits (scripted performances) and Exploration Kits (guided hands-on activity materials); National partner conference promotion (exhibits, workshops and materials distribution to promote the broadcast and public outreach activities and resources).

Components for Science Professionals – Guides for science professionals will present strategies for successfully engaging scientists in public outreach to schools, museums, libraries and other settings; public outreach training workshops for scientists presented in collaboration with AAAS; Conference promotion (as described for educators).

Components for the Public – Kiosks or CD-ROMs with Absolute Zero story and concept highlights at Network museums; Displays at libraries with elements of the Kiosk/CD-ROM, and additional library resources; Special programs for families supported by Network museum Demonstration and Exploration Kits; Downloadable versions of the print materials on the website, linked from each partners’ website; “Cool Community Celebrations” delivered by the Network museums and their community partners.

Web Site

The Absolute Zero web site, created and maintained by Twin Cities Public Television in partnership with online developer Popular Front Interactive, will provide several key functions for the project as a whole: a source of in-depth background information on the television program; provide interactive experiences for learners from children to adult; a repository for the educational outreach materials created for the program; and provide links to other specialized online sources of information about low-temperature research.

The site will be aimed at a general audience, with separate components for middle school, high school and college students and educators. In collaboration with the producers, advisors, outreach developers and institutions specializing in low-temperature science, it will offer sets of interactive activities designed to deepen the understanding of the television series. We will partner with the American Institute of Physics to maintain the site content and update its content for a minimum of five years. Web site production will begin simultaneously with production of the series, and it will launch well ahead of the television broadcast premiere to help promote the broadcast.

The site will be located on – the most trafficked “dot-org” destination in the U.S. and a highly trusted portal for science content. TPT will produce the site in association with Popular Front Interactive, an award-winning web design firm that has collaborated with TPT on some of PBS’s most successful sites, including those for Ben Franklin, American Photography, Continental Harmony, and DragonflyTV ( See Document 3 for details.

Public Relations and Promotion

Devillier Communications, Inc. (DCI) will undertake a creative and comprehensive national media relations campaign on behalf of Absolute Zero. The objective will be to bring Absolute Zero to the attention of the largest possible audience, including minorities and other underserved communities across America. DCI will work closely with TPT, Meridian/Windfall, Inc., David Heil & Associates Inc., and the eight major science museums that will participate in the Absolute Zero Outreach Network as well as PBS and its 350 member stations. Details are in Document 4.

The national campaign will involve an extensive cross section of the media (print, broadcast, cable and online) in the top 50 markets. This will include television reviewers, science reporters and editors, and feature writers and columnists whose work appears in consumer and scientific publications, as well as in the minority press. There also will be an aggressive effort to connect via the Internet with links and stories on sites that are frequented by the series’ target audiences.

A primary strategy will be to actively engage local PBS stations in this campaign. DCI will provide stations with timely, substantive publicity materials and help leverage their relationships with the museums in the Absolute Zero Outreach Network.

Another critical public relations strategy will be to develop story lines that demonstrate how low temperature physics and the nature of cold affect daily life. Diverse spokespersons, drawn from the scientific community (academic and industry) as well as other specialists in the field, will be recommended by the producer, David Heil & Associates, and the Absolute Zero outreach network. Each spokesperson will be knowledgeable and credible and ideally one or more will be bilingual. DCI will provide media training and initiate interviews for spokespersons with a wide variety of local, regional and national press – consumer, educational and specialized media.

During the past six years DCI has undertaken a similar strategy on behalf of Space Day, an award winning national scientific/educational outreach effort. The press campaign generated over a half billion media impressions for Space Day 2002. (See case study in Appendix 3).

Evaluation Plan

Formative evaluation studies by Dr. Flagg of Multimedia Research focus on video rough cuts, a website prototype, and draft versions of outreach activities. Rough cuts of the television programs will be viewed by different samples of 50 adults and 100 high school students at five sites distributed nationally. Pre/post questionnaires will assess appeal, clarity, pace and content density as well as comprehension of science concepts. Also, at preselected points, viewers will rate program appeal and comprehensibility, providing a response profile to help guide revisions to the film’s pace, design and content.

Formative evaluation of a website prototype will include two parts: (1) five teachers and five high schoolers will address usability issues in one-on-one sessions; (2) a nationally distributed sample of teachers, students and PBS viewing adults will assess the website in their home settings and answer on-line survey questions about ease of use, appeal, clarity and comprehensiveness of information and web activities.

Eight draft-phase hands-on activities and print materials associated with outreach components will be reviewed by a range of museum educators and youth group leaders who will test activities with their youth constituents. Data gathering methods include observations of activity implementations, written questionnaires and interviews with leaders and students to assess activity engagement, content clarity and usability. See Document 5.

Summative evaluation will be conducted by Goodman Research Group, Inc., led by Irene F. Goodman. The evaluation will examine the influence of the educational outreach, both nationally and at the community level, and the television series itself, on learning about low temperature physics, awareness of the impact of the nature of cold in peoples’ daily lives, and interest in and knowledge of the process of scientific advancement. The series will be assessed using pre- and post-viewing surveys along with viewing of the series by five groups (N=50) in different geographic regions around the country.

Summative evaluation of the outreach initiative will be a multi-faceted effort, including: assessment of the regional site coordinators’ training (via surveys, logs, and observations); assessment of implementation and outcomes of collaborations within communities (via in-depth interviews with sites and their partners); learning at the community-based events (via brief surveys of participants); knowledge and attitude gain by recipients of outreach guides and kits and by participants in the activities (via teacher/leader post-only surveys and pre-post student surveys); and a knowledge gain, usage, and appeal of the Absolute Zero web site (via a web-based survey on the site itself). Document 6 contains the full summative evaluation plan.

Management Plan

The Absolute Zero project is a collaborative, with each partner bringing specialized expertise to the creation of a science media initiative. The principal partners are the University of Oregon, Meridian Productions, and Twin Cities Public Television.

The University of Oregon will serve as fiscal agent for the NSF grant, and will work in close cooperation with Twin Cities Public Television, the presenting station, and Meridian Productions, the series’ Executive Producer. The management team consists of Principal Investigator Russell Donnelly, for the University of Oregon; Co-PI Richard Hudson for Twin Cities Public Television; and Co-PI/Project Director Meredith Burch, for the series producers (MeridianWindfall). Their combined experience, expertise and resources assure a solid foundation for a coordinated effort to bring the story of cold to television – and to further disseminate it across a broad range of media and learning environments. The principal partners have primary responsibility for raising the matching funds, a process which already is underway.

In addition to encouraging informal conversations and e-mails among team members, the PIs will organize regular conference calls and at least two meetings of the principals, to provide for the regular exchange of information and ideas, and to assure that plans and work underway reflect project goals and production schedules. The University of Oregon will host an online listserve to facilitate internal communications.

David Heil & Associates will develop and implement the outreach plan; Devillier Communications, Inc. will develop and implement the communications and public relations program. Multimedia Research will test project materials as they come available, coordinating with the content review by the Advisory Committee. After the programs have been presented, Goodman Research will assess the success and impact of the full project. All partners and contributors are in Document 7.

Management Team

Russell Donnelly is Professor of Physics and Director of the Cryogenic Helium Turbulence Laboratory, University of Oregon. He is Chairman of the advisory committee responsible for advisors’ continuing involvement in the process and scientific accuracy. He will be available for technical advice and will devote substantial time to obtaining the essential external funding.

Richard Hudson is the Director of Science Production at TPT/Twin Cities Public Television and oversees all science-related media activities. He was Senior Executive Producer for Newton’s Apple, and is currently Executive Producer for DragonflyTV, an NSF-funded children’s science series. He will advise on contracts, review deliverables, and oversee the packaging of Absolute Zero for PBS and the carriage campaign to assure the program is seen across the PBS system. TPT will be responsible for development and maintenance of the Absolute Zero web site, in association with Spencer Weart of the American Institute of Physics History Center.

Meredith Burch, Executive Producer for the series, is president of Meridian Productions, Inc., a Washington DC-based documentary film and television company with both PBS and network television credits. She will have responsibility for coordination to assure effective and mutually supportive efforts in pursuit of common goals. She organized the Absolute Zero team, and since January 2000 has worked closely with them on planning for the diverse programs and “products” that are the core components of this project.

Project Team

Series Writer, Author of Underlying Material: Thomas Shachtman
Series Co-Producer, Director: David Dugan, Windfall Films
Outreach Coordination: David Heil and Alice Forbes, David Heil & Associates
Promotion: Linda Devillier and Sue Lin Chong, Devillier Communications, Inc.
Formative Evaluation: Dr. Barbara Flagg, Multimedia Research
Summative Evaluation: Dr. Irene Goodman, Goodman Research Group, Inc.
(Specifics on all partners are in the Supplementary Document 7.)

Advisory Committee

At the heart of Absolute Zero is the distinguished group of advisors P.I. Russell Donnelly assembled. They bring expertise in low temperature physics, the history of science, and formal and informal science education. Included are directors of laboratories and well known scientists from the U.S., Britain, Japan, Germany, Finland, Russia and the Netherlands. There are two science historians, a Nobel prize-winner; the President of one of America’s oldest black colleges (a physicist and former NSF director) and two of the most senior women in the American low temperature physics community.

Advisors have been actively involved in Absolute Zero since its inception, and will continue to offer guidance. “Core” advisors (those who can attend two meetings in Washington DC) will consult on shooting scripts, meet with the series writer, directors and producers at the outset of production, and again with members of the production/ editing team to screen rough cuts and review draft narration. Other members of the committee participate in written reviews and e-mail consultations. Outreach elements will also be sent to advisors for review as they are developed. The project is counting on advisors to alert us to new developments in law-temperature physics, to provide critical analyses of program content, and to ensure the accuracy of the series. The progress and enthusiasm that came out of our initial meeting and subsequent consultations bodes well for the continued success of our joint efforts. All the individual advisors and their credentials are detailed in Document 8.

Core advisors are: Russell J. Donnelly, University of Oregon; Peter Gammel, Agere Systems, Lucent Technologies; David Goodstein, California Institute of Technology; Mikko Paalanen, Helsinki University of Technology; Robert Richardson, Cornell University; Gerald Wheeler, National Science Teachers Association; and Spencer Weart, American Institute of Physics.

Work Plan (assuming funds available mid-2003)

Fall 2004 Research completed and full treatments and/or scripts written
Winter 2004-5 Pre-production and principal photography begin
May 2004 Film editing and outreach/web site preparations begin
November 2004 Rough cut available for advisor review and evaluation
February 2005 Finished films delivered to PBS and international licensors; web site and outreach elements completed
2005-06 season Broadcast premiere, launch of web site and outreach plan


and their relevant expertise
for the television series
Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold

. * Russell J. Donnelly, Low temperature physicist, Professor of Physics and Director of the Cryogenic Helium Turbulence Laboratory, University of Oregon. Principal Investigator and Advisory Committee Chair. H has done research in low temperature physics for over 50 years and is widely recognized for his contributions, which include historical articles.

* Peter Gammel is Chief Technology Officer, Agere Systems, Lucent Technologies (formerly Bell laboratories). A research physicist, he brings an industrial perspective, and as well as a fresh approach to the story telling aspects of our series, and the underlying science.

Christopher Gould, Low temperature physicist, Professor of Physics at the University of Southern California. Gould has been active in the California State Science Fair in various capacities, including Board Chairman, for over 20 years. He created the Web site of the Fair about 1994 and still maintains it. He is also the editor of the WWW Virtual Library page on science fairs.
* David Goodstein, Low temperature physicist, Vice Provost of the California Institute of Technology, Professor of Physics and Applied Physics. He was the primary force in the Annenberg/CPB 52 - part series, “The Mechanical Universe”. His expertise includes phases and phase transitions in two and three dimensional matter, superfluidity, science education and scientific ethics.

Lene V. Hau, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics and of Physics,
Harvard University. She is also the principal investigator for the Atom Cooling Group of the Rowland Institute for Science. Hau’s most recent work has centered on Bose-Einstein Condensates, and exemplifies the cutting edge of research in this burgeoning field . She is perhaps best known for having slowed the speed of light to a crawl.

*Philip W. Hammer, trained as an experimental physicist and currently Vice President of the Franklin Center of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. A Co-Executive Producer of the web site for the PBS science documentary Transistorized!. he maintains a strong interest and prominent position in the area of enhancing public understanding of science.

Gerald Holton, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Professor of the History of Science, Emeritus, at Harvard University. Widely recognized for his contributions
to, the history and philosophy of science through his lectures and extensive writings.

Shun-ichi Kobayashi, President of RIKEN, a semi-governmental research institute. RIKEN is a complex consisting of about fifty laboratories and supporting facilities, devoted to a broad range of research in the physical, chemical, engineering and biological sciences. He is a low temperature physicist and Co-Chairman of the 23rd International Conference on Low Temperature Physics held in Japan in August 2002.

Paul Leiderer, a prominent low temperature physicist and Professor of Physics at the University of Konstanz, Germany , Leiderer brings technical expertise and a European perspective to our efforts.

Walter Massey, theoretical low temperature physicist, President of Morehouse College in Atlanta. Formerly Director of the NSF and of the Argonne National Laboratory, his interests include science and mathematics education, and the role
of science in a democratic society

Rosalyn McPherson is Senior Vice President for Marketing and the Science Center at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, PA. She oversees all activities related to marketing, visitor services, exhibit design and development, and educational programs. Ms. McPherson has had a distinguished career spanning more than 25 years in educational publishing, specializing in multi-media product for the classroom. Her specialty is science and history product, with an expertise in multicultural product development in these subject areas. The multi-media aspect of her experience includes participation television development deals and the distribution of televised programs to ancillary markets.

Leonid Mezhov-Deglin, Low temperature physicist, Director of the Laboratory of Quantum Crystals of the Institute of Solid State Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences. He provides a Russian viewpoint and personal knowledge of Russian contributions to our field

Cherry Ann Murphy, Low temperature physicist, Senior Vice President, Physical Sciences Research, Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies. Bell Labs is one of the oldest and most prominent industrial research laboratories in the world, and the site of the invention of the transistor.

Rudolf de Bruyn Ouboter Low temperature physicist, Emeritus Professor of Physics in the Kammerlingh Onnes Laboratory in Leiden. He is the chief expert on Kamerlingh Onnes and his legacy, a key element of our series

*Mikko Paalanen, low temperature physicist, Director of the Low Temperature
Laboratory of the Helsinki University of Technology. Probably the world’s largest low temperature laboratory and locus of the coldest temperatures in the universe.

Sir Brian Pippard, FRS. Emeritus Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge University, U. K. His research interests include low temperature physics and the history of physics. He is a noted expert on the history of thermodynamics.

* Robert Richardson, Vice Provost and Professor of Physics at Cornell University, and 1996 Nobel Laureate in low temperature physics in recognition of his contribution to the discovery of the superfluidity of helium-3. As former chair of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics Commission on Low Temperature Physics, Richardson has been a tireless advocate of educating the public in what physicists do, and the impact it makes on daily living.

* Gerald Wheeler, trained as a nuclear physicist, he is Executive Director of the
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and brings a direct connection with the science education community. He also brings personal experience of the
difficulties scientists encounter in dealing with the world of television, having been involved in the production of more than a hundred programs dealing with science and technology,.

* Spencer Weart, Director, Center for the History of Physics, American Institute of Physics. Weart presides over one of the world’s most wide ranging and diverse collections of historical material on the history of physics. He provided editorial guidance to developers of the Transistorized! website, and will be similarly involved in the creation and maintenance of the Absolute Zero site.

* Core advisors attend committee meetings, and will be responsible for reviewing scripts, rough cuts and proposed narration; and for providing guidance and assuring scientific the scientific accuracy throughout the course of research and production. We expect the number of core advisors will increase.

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