Physics of negative absolute temperatures

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Abstract

Negative absolute temperatures were introduced into experimental physics by Purcell and Pound, who successfully applied this concept to nuclear spins; nevertheless, the concept has proved controversial: a recent article aroused considerable interest by its claim, based on a classical entropy formula (the “volume entropy”) due to Gibbs, that negative temperatures violated basic principles of statistical thermodynamics. Here we give a thermodynamic analysis that confirms the negative-temperature interpretation of the Purcell-Pound experiments. We also examine the principal arguments that have been advanced against the negative temperature concept; we find that these arguments are not logically compelling, and moreover that the underlying “volume” entropy formula leads to predictions inconsistent with existing experimental results on nuclear spins. We conclude that, despite the counterarguments, negative absolute temperatures make good theoretical sense and did occur in the experiments designed to produce them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number012125
JournalPhysical Review E
Volume95
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2017

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