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Chinese Team Heading for Coldest Spot on Earth 385

Posted by timothy
from the hey-it's-breezy-out-here dept.
LMCBoy writes "Dome A is the highest point on the Antarctic Plateau, and it has never been reached by humans. It is thought to be the coldest place on earth, and is certainly among the most remote. Yesterday, a team of Chinese explorers set out from Fremantle, Australia to reach Dome A and set up a robotic weather station which will monitor the local conditions for up to five years. The team is expected to arrive at Dome A in early 2005."
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Chinese Team Heading for Coldest Spot on Earth

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  • Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by addaon (41825) <addaon+slashdot@ ... m minus caffeine> on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:15AM (#10839777)
    So what happens when the temperature (down to -90C) goes below the sublimation temperature of CO2 (-76C, if I recall correctly)? Does it just freeze out of the air? I'm sure these guys will be heating (and probably humidifying) their air supply anyway, but do they need to add CO2 to keep the breathing reflexes working right?
    • Re:Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:38AM (#10839897)
      That is actually not a bad question but I think you'll find that the breathing reflex is not affected by the composition of the air in the environment - rather, it is related to the carbon dioxide concentration in the blood. The carbon dioxide is created within the body as a by-product of aerobic respiration. If that carbon dioxide is freezing before they have the chance to expel it, they wouldn't be needing a breathing reflex anyway.
      • Ooh. [forehead smack] Good point. Still must be bloody weird to have dry ice vaporizing under your boots when you step down.
      • Yes a very wry answer indeed, however something will need to be inhaled along with the oxygen to prevent oxygen poisoning-- something well known to divers.

        Nitrogen would be a good choice as it is not toxic to humans and doesn't even liquify until -195.8C.. again, they wouldn't be needing a breathing reflex at that temperature.

    • Not an issue (Score:5, Informative)

      by tanveer1979 (530624) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:20AM (#10840207) Homepage Journal
      They are going there in Early 2005, and that peak summer in antartica. So temparatures will not be dropping below -50C. :)
    • Re:Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Aglassis (10161) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @03:36AM (#10840248)
      You said: "So what happens when the temperature (down to -90C) goes below the sublimation temperature of CO2 (-76C, if I recall correctly)? Does it just freeze out of the air?"

      Most likely. The phase diagram [www.acri.fr] for CO2 shows that for our standard atmospheric pressure, CO2 freezes at -78.5 C [uakron.edu]. If the temperature is only slightly lower than -78.5 C it may take some time for a significant amount of CO2 to precipitate due to the latent heat of solidification for CO2 of -43 cal/g (smaller than the absolute value of water which is about -80 cal/g) . Additionally some CO2 may remain in the air which varies by temperature (which would be relative humidity [wikipedia.org] for water). As the temperature drops the amount of CO2 that can be dissolved in air decreases. Unfortunately I couldn't find a reference for CO2 saturation vs temperature. If it is reasonably low (which it should be) at -90 C, CO2 frost will develop.

      On Mars with an atmospheric pressure that varies from about 5 - 10 mbar (1 atm = 1013.25 millibars), CO2 frost can develop as seen [uoregon.edu] by Viking 2 and by satellite pictures [msss.com] of the poles. Snowflakes [exo.net] won't form, since the shape of a snowflake is determined by van der Waals forces (don't occur in CO2). CO2 frost should look similar to this [usda.gov].
      • Re:Question (Score:3, Informative)

        by The Bender (801382)
        CO2 has a vapour pressure of ~400 Torr at -90 C, and a partial pressure of only 25 Torr in air, so unfortunately it won't freeze out. For that to happen, the temperature would have to go down to about -115 C. Sorry.
    • ...do they need to add CO2 to keep the breathing reflexes working right?

      As long as all the nitrogen doesn't freeze out of the air, I think they're OK. :-)
  • by mg2 (823681) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:16AM (#10839782)
    to set up a robotic weather station which will monitor the local conditions for up to five years

    Day 1: Cold
    Day 2: Cold
    ...
  • by wrinkledshirt (228541) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:17AM (#10839789) Homepage
    Chinese Team Heading for Coldest Spot on Earth

    Let me know when they find my girlfriend's heart.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:25AM (#10839832)
      They said coldest place, not far off imaginary place.
      • by wrinkledshirt (228541) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:54AM (#10839957) Homepage
        Ha ha. I guess if a slashdotter has a girlfriend, then the coldest place right now must be Hell.
        • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:39AM (#10840082) Journal
          An exam question on Momentum, Heat and Mass transfer: Is hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)? Justify your argument.

          Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law or some variant.

          One student however wrote the following:

          First, we must postulate that if souls exist they must have mass. If they do then a mole of soles can have mass. So at what rate are souls entering Hell and at what rate are they leaving?

          Making the assumptions that once in Hell a soul cannot leave. Therefore no souls are leaving.

          To determine how many are entering we must look at the different religions.

          Some religions state that if you are not a member of their religion you will go to Hell.

          Because there is more than one religion that states this and no one is a member of one of more religion we can postulate that all people, and therefore all souls, go to Hell.

          With birth and death rates as they are we can assume that the number of souls in Hell are increasing exponentially.

          Now look at the rate of change of volume in hell.

          Boyle's law states that in order for the temperature and pressure to say the same, the ratio of the mass of souls and volume needs to stay constant.

          Case 1: If Hell is expanding at a rate slower than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell lets loose.

          Case 2: If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature ad pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

          So which is it?

          If we accept the postulate by Theresa Banyan during my first year " it will be a cold night in Hell before I sleep with you" and taking into account I have not had sexual relations with her, Case 2 cannot be correct.

          Thus Hell is exothermic- QED!
    • "Let me know when they find my girlfriend's heart."

      Let me know if they find a scary looking guy with a pitch-fork, red skin, and horns walking around as well...
    • Let me know when they find my girlfriend's heart.

      Wow! A fellow slashdotter with a girlfriend? That's gotta be more momentus than visiting the south pole.

      They should have a National Geographic special on it: The first geek ever observed reproducing sexually (see the April issue for asexual geek reproduction....Warning: not for the faint of heart).
  • Excellent teamwork (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raahul_da_man (469058) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:17AM (#10839793)
    It's good to see the spirit of exploration is not dead. I am slightly puzzled by the story though. Why, if Australians are training the Chinese expeditioners, are they doing it in Fremantle?

    That really doesn't seem a close match for the climatic conditions in the Antarctica. It may be far too easy compared to the high altitudes they are facing.

    It would also be interesting to learn what challenges are involved in building those automated weather recording stations. How *do* they keep it running unattended for 20 years with batteries?
    • > Why, if Australians are training the Chinese
      > expeditioners, are they doing it in Fremantle?

      They started training them in Ballarat, but even elite Antarctic explorers can only take so much cold weather...
    • My guess is we're not training them. Fremantle is so-so close to the Antarctic, although they usually depart from Tasmania.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:09AM (#10840001)
      I helped design those weather stations, we use 148 Saft Lithium-thionyl chloride (Li-SOCl2) 20 AHr batteries. The weather station averages about 1 mA at 12 V. The batteries aer burries in the snow about 3 m where we expect the temperature to be about -65 C.

      We cannot find any batteries that could be recharged at this temperature, Li-SOCl2 batteries are the only option. We also have solar pannels for the summer months. Without the solar pannels the station should last 5 years, with the pannels we might get 7-10 years, and 20 years of data for summer.

      The trick with getting things working at that temperatures was testing, we find that most things work (chips etc) but we test all the parts here first.

      Peter Jansen
      Australian Antarctic Division
    • Why, if Australians are training the Chinese expeditioners, are they doing it in Fremantle?

      That really doesn't seem a close match for the climatic conditions in the Antarctica. It may be far too easy compared to the high altitudes they are facing.

      Never been to Fremantle huh?
  • by Klowner (145731) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:18AM (#10839797) Homepage
    when reading this headline..

    Inside Martha Stewart's Pants..
  • Lies! (Score:3, Funny)

    by McBeer (714119) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:19AM (#10839805) Homepage
    My liquid nitrogen cooled case is the coldest place on earth!
    • Re:Lies! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      My liquid nitrogen cooled case is the coldest place on earth!

      So, just how did you fit the Chinese in there?
  • No. (Score:5, Funny)

    by wankledot (712148) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:20AM (#10839809)
    "They will also test whether it is suitable for human beings to live in the harsh environment there," he said.

    No, it's not.

    Next question?

  • Good for China! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mOoZik (698544) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:28AM (#10839843) Homepage
    I mean, really. Look at all the things China is doing vis-a-vis science, technology, exploration, etc. They're like the Soviet Union of the 50's, involved in everything from space exploration to breaking records, to generally advancing its culture and playing a greater role in the world. Just a thought - don't grill me about their deficiencies.

    • That's scary... the government of the Soviet Union was completely insane during the 50s. (We're talking paranoid batsh*t crazy -- Stalin and then Krushchev.) The USSR was pumping massive resources into publicity stunts and international PR efforts. Meanwhile, internal political oppression and poverty ran rampant. I don't want to see China following in their footsteps.

      I hope China is funding this mission for the cause of science, not as part of a PR campaign for the People's March of Progress.
      • That's okay. If China becomes too much like the Soviet Union, just close down all our WalMarts and Toys-R-Us's and their economy would tank like a lead iceberg.
    • They're like the Soviet Union of the 50's,

      Hey, that's great! That means that the Chinese people will only be brutally subjugated under the cold boot of tyrany for another forty years! Hold on China, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer...

      *FORTY MORE YEARS! FORTY MORE YEARS!*
  • by Coryoth (254751) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:28AM (#10839849) Homepage Journal
    China seem to be determined to push boundaries at the moment. Putting a man in orbit is no mean feat. Yes the US did it along time ago, but I don't see them doing it at all at the moment due to the shuttle grounding. Now pushing for the still unexplored regions of the world. I wonder if they have any deep sea missions planned for some time in the next few years. China has definitely decided that they have somethign to prove. The impressive part is that they aren't doing a bad job of proving it.

    And this really ought to mildly concern people in the US. Yes the US already has done most of these things or something similar (they have a couple of Antarctic bases, one at the pole I believe). But that's the key point. The US has done such things, but doesn't seem to be expending quite the effort they use to on pushing boundaries of exploration and science. Increasingly it seems to be Chinese and Indians with the real fire to try and push ahead. And all the better I say. The US seemed to slacken off and grow complacent, so its about time there was some serious competition again.

    Go China.

    (Hopefully they can break new ground sorting out their political issues too)

    Jedidiah.
    • "Increasingly it seems to be Chinese and Indians with the real fire to try and push ahead."

      The problem is, you just contradicted yourself. They're not pushing ahead. They're replicating the feats of 50 years ago, just as you pointed out. All this has been done before.

      You're not pushing ahead until you do something NEW. And the Chinese and Indians haven't done that.

      -Erwos
      • by praksys (246544) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:21AM (#10840037) Homepage
        There seem to be two responses going:

        (1) China/India is now out-pacing the US.
        (2) Yawn, they are finally catching up with the USA of the 1950's.

        Neither strikes me as justified. The US is still pushing the boundaries of exploration and science in ways that neither country can hope to match any time soon, but that doesn't mean that their efforts count for nothing. Both countries are again making significant contributions to the sum of human achievement and knowledge. We should all be happy about that.
        • The US is still pushing the boundaries of exploration and science in ways that neither country can hope to match any time soon

          No you aren't. I'm not trolling here, just making a serious point. Your inovation has died due to patent profiteering. Your political system is openly corrupt. Science is allowed, provided it sits well with Christian theology. America is going nowhere fast, until you fix the fundamental problems. And even then, the US only inovations have been in the field of killing more people mo

          • What's with all this "your" stuff? I'm not American.

            the fact that the US hasn't led global inovation for decades is clear to just about everyone. Yet there is this delusional arrogance

            Decades? So we are not counting the creation of the internet or the human genome project - just to pick a couple of obvious examples?

            Your "everything about America sucks" kind of post is just as unreasonable as the "Go USA!" mantra you complain about.
      • Sure they are replication feats that we have already achieved, but its new to them. A 'Big deal, been there done that' attitude isn't the way to view this. That they are doing things like this shows that they are catching up. When a communist country that has 1/5 of the entire planets population decides it wants to be a superpower, you should pay attention.
    • by davejenkins (99111) <slashdot@davejenkins. c o m> on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:30AM (#10840058) Homepage
      The US has done such things, but doesn't seem to be expending quite the effort they use to on pushing boundaries of exploration and science. Increasingly it seems to be Chinese and Indians with the real fire to try and push ahead. And all the better I say. The US seemed to slacken off and grow complacent, so its about time there was some serious competition again.

      What the hell are you talking about? The US is pouring billions into research on a myriad of efforts:
      1. Robotic missions to Saturn
      2. Two (TWO!) golf carts running around ON MARS drilling holes in rocks as I write this
      3. cranking out pharmeceuticals at an incredible pace
      4. Internet II
      5. restoring the everglades
      6. Scaled Composites PRIVATE astronauts
      7. GPS satellite system (+70 birds)

      You may be missing it because most of the really bitchen things done in the US are done by private companies (thank God), but the US govt efforts are still pretty big and pretty kick-ass in my book.

      Alternatively, the Chinese are doing things that everyone else did 40 years ago. They aren't pushing a single boundary, ANYWHERE.
      • They aren't pushing a single boundary, ANYWHERE.

        I don't know about that. They're ahead of just about everyone in human rights violations, internet censorship, and repression of religious groups.

        • They're ahead of just about everyone in human rights violations, internet censorship, and repression of religious groups

          May I be the first to point out that Amnesty International has said bad things about the US on most of those counts. You lock folk up without trial, the media follows the party line (pretty much censorship), Christians prosper, Islamics are hated.

          Not all that different really!

    • What do you mean 'sorting out their political issues'? I think most Chinese are perfectly happy with the status quo. The US is not exactly a paragon of virtue here either - see recent elections.
    • So, I guess you didn't read the news yesterday [cnn.com], huh?
  • by strider44 (650833) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @01:36AM (#10839885)
    To an Australian living in Sydney, Fremantle is the coldest place on earth!
    • To an Australian living in Germany (who has also lived in Sydney) and is from Perth, Fremantle is the .. umm ... ah, forget it.

      Freo is good for a night out, thats about all. Too many American sailors.
  • It is thought to be the coldest place on earth

    Apparently those Chinese researchers have never visited Edmonton in January.

  • Air-Drop easier? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BrianGa (536442)
    Couldn't they just air-drop the monitoring equipment? Parachutes, the whole nine yards. Almost like they do/did with the Mars rovers.
  • by valmont (3573)

    <jack> yy..yooouu..mm..mmmuust promise me ...yy..you'll never ..ll.lllet go ...

    <rose> i'll never let go jack!

    *cue music*

  • "In other news, apart from future thoughts about the ribbon breaking, the team was unaware of the slashdot-effect soon to come!"
  • by bitingduck (810730) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:15AM (#10840020) Homepage
    The coldest spot on earth is in a laboratory in Finland:

    http://boojum.hut.fi/Low-Temp-Record.html [boojum.hut.fi]

    Dome A is the coldest naturally occuring spot.
  • by Kiyooka (738862) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:23AM (#10840040)
    Not trolling, I'm Chinese. Usually the US is fanatical about data-gathering. Thought hottest/coldest places on earth were visited and studied long ago.

    Guess despite for all our telecommunications, earth's still pretty damn big.
    • Not trolling, I'm Chinese. Usually the US is fanatical about data-gathering. Thought hottest/coldest places on earth were visited and studied long ago.

      We were fanatical about data gathering, but we are unable to afford to do so anymore. Part of the reason is that your country exports large quantities of consumer goods to us through the giant U.S. retailer known as Wal-Mart and increasing our already huge trade deficit. This is also depressing our local economies and putting local companies out of busine
    • I agree with you. I am surprised that we have not done it. It also makes sense to try and survive there. It makes a good stopping point to living on Mars or the Moon.
  • by Tablizer (95088)
    "Dear diar..r..r..r..ry I am fucking cold and sh..sh..shivering my a
  • by Doomsdaisy (90430) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:42AM (#10840095)
    I'm no aviator, so I don't know why the team has to slog it there on foot. Why can't they simply drop in with a helicopter? I'm sure there's a simple reason I'm overlooking.
    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @05:52AM (#10840598) Journal
      Flying in extreme cold at hight is not all that easy. It is why flying is less safe then driving. If your engine freezes on your car then it is just a nuiscance and you better unfreeze it before you freeze as well. If it freezes on your airplance/chopper then at leas you will die warm in the fireball that is soon to happen.

      Helicopters suck donkeyballs in thin air. They also guzzle fuel like their is no tomorrow. Check docu's on the artic. Ever seen a chopper in it?

      Basically the area to be travelled in is to high, to far and to cold for helicopters to operate in.

      However walking there is a proven techinique. It has worked for decades. Why develop a 1 use aircraft when you can simple hire some idiots^H^H^H^H^H^Hbrave men to haul your stuff there?

  • The stare my girlfriend gave me when I realise I didn't take my shoes off and almost stepped on the new rugs actually caused apartments 3 floors up to have burst pipes.

    Now that is cold.
  • Reading this post has made me wonder if a map exists of places humans have not recently been. Does anyone know if such a thing is out there, because I sure as heck couldn't find much via Internet searches.


    On another note, does anyone know the approximate population of Antartica? Just curious how many people are camping out at those research stations.

  • They obviously haven't been in our server room.
  • by Riktov (632) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @07:47AM (#10840944) Journal
    A witch's tit, and a brass monkey's balls.
  • by Misch (158807) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @02:22PM (#10844865) Homepage
    Coldest place on earth? They'll have to get past the Secret Service first... Dick Cheney's heart isn't exactly accessible you know.

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