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What is the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics?

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 Chemistry   |   Physics   |   Science
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Why is there a zeroth law of thermodynamics? What use is such a simple-sounding law? And how can it be used to smash glass? Chemical engineer Valeska Ting explains in the first film from our 2016 advent calendar, all about thermodynamics.
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The first, second and third laws of thermodynamics get all the glory. They’re the most well known and frequently mentioned. But underpinning them all is a final law so fundamental that, although it was established last, had to be moved to the front of the list: the zeroth law. In the first film of our 2016 advent calendar, chemical engineer Valeska Ting explores the zeroth law of thermodynamics.

The zeroth law is essentially an observation: if two systems are both in thermal equilibrium with a third, they are also in equilibrium with each other. This seemingly simple mantra is essential to our concept of temperature, as Valeska, armed with some very hot glasses, explains.

Our 2016 advent calendar explores the four laws of thermodynamics through 24 short films, released daily in the run up to Christmas. We’ll have explosive demonstrations, unique animations and even a musical number. Sign up to receive each instalment by email from

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