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July 12 2013
A NOISY ball of gas is now the most accurate thermometer ever. That removes one hurdle to redefining the scientific unit of temperature, the kelvin, in terms of a fundamental constant.
At the moment, the kelvin is defined in terms of the temperature at which ice, liquid water and water vapour can coexist in equilibrium – 273.16 K or 0.01 °C. Other temperatures are measured by comparison with this "triple point", but the further away you get from it, the more inaccurate the result. "When you're measuring at 1500 °C, it is actually slightly bonkers to have to compare back to the triple point of water," says Michael de Podesta of the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, UK.
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