The Extreme Temperatures of the Universe: From Coldest to Hottest
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The Extreme Temperatures of the Universe

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Extreme Temperatures in the Universe

The Extreme Temperatures of the Universe

For most of us, temperature is a very easy variable to overlook.

Our vehicles and indoor spaces are climate controlled, fridges keep our food consistently chilled, and with a small twist of the tap, we get water that’s the optimal temperature. Of course, our concept of what’s hot or cold is actually very narrow in the grand scheme of things.

Even the stark contrast between the wind-swept glaciers of Antarctica and the blistering sands of our deserts is a mere blip on the universe’s full temperature range. Today’s graphic, produced by the IIB Studio, looks at the hottest and coldest temperatures in our universe.

But First: What is Temperature Anyway?

Before looking at this top-to-bottom view of extreme temperatures, it helps to remember what temperature is actually measuring – kinetic energy, or the movement of atoms.

Hypothetically, atoms would simply stop moving as they reach absolute zero. As matter heats up, it begins to “vibrate” more vigorously, changing states from solid to gas. Eventually, plasma forms as electrons wander away from the nuclei.

With that quick primer, let’s dig into some of the hottest insights in this cool data visualization.

Highs and Lows on Planet Earth

Earth’s lowest air temperature, -135ºF (-93ºC), was recorded in Antarctica in 2010. Since then, scientists have discovered that surface ice temperatures can dip as low as -144ºF (-98ºC).

The conditions need to be just right: clear skies and dry air must persist for several days during the polar winter. In surroundings this cold, human lungs would actually hemorrhage within just a few breaths.

On the other end of the spectrum of extreme temperatures, the hottest surface reading on Earth of 160ºF (71ºC) occurred in Iran’s Lut Desert in 2005. In fact, the Lut Desert clocked the highest surface temperature in 5 out of 7 years during a 2003-2009 study, making it the world’s hottest location. The desert’s dark pebbles, dry soil, and lack of vegetation create the perfect conditions for blistering heat.

There are very few organisms that can withstand such temperatures, but one fascinating phylum makes the cut.

The Amazing Tardigrade

Commonly known as a “moss pig” or “water bear”, the one-millimeter long tardigrade is extremely resilient. While most organisms need water to survive, the tardigrade gets around this by entering a “tun” state, in which metabolism slows to just 0.01% of its normal rate.

When water is scarce, the creature curls up and synthesizes molecules that lock sensitive cell components in place until re-hydration occurs. Beyond dry conditions, the tardigrade can also survive both freezing and boiling temperatures, high radiation environments, and even the vacuum of space.

This video courtesy of TEDEd explains more about the hardy critter:

Testing the Limits

For better or worse, humans have pushed the limits of temperature here on Earth.

At MIT, scientists cooled a sodium gas to half-a-billionth of a degree above absolute zero. In the words of the Nobel Laureate Wolfgang Ketterle, who co-led the team: “To go below one nanokelvin (one-billionth of a degree) is a little like running a mile under four minutes for the first time.”

Not all experiments are conducted out of simple curiosity. Conventional bombs already explode at around 9,000ºF (5,000ºC), but nuclear explosions take things much further. For a split second, temperatures inside a nuclear fireball can reach a mind-bending 18,000,000ºF (10,000,000ºC).

The highest man-made temperature ever recorded is 9,900,000,000,000ºF (5,500,000,000,000ºC), created in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. It was achieved by accelerating heavy lead ions to 99% the speed of light and smashing them together.

Highs and Lows of the Universe

While humans have been able to manufacture extremely hot and cold temperatures, the universe has created these extremes naturally.

Undoubtedly, the creation of the universe is made of the hottest stuff of all. The temperature of the universe at 10⁻³⁵ seconds old was a whopping 1 octillion ºC. Moments later, it “cooled down” to 1,800,000,000ºF (1 billion ºC) when the universe was less than two minutes old.

On the other end of the spectrum, the coolest natural place currently known in the universe is the Boomerang Nebula at -457.6ºF (-272ºC). It’s found 5,000 light years away from us in the constellation Centaurus, and it is currently in a transitional phase as a dying star.

As space exploration goes further than ever, these extreme temperatures may one day reach even hotter or colder heights than we can imagine.

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Mapped: The 3 Billion People Who Can’t Afford a Healthy Diet

More than three billion people across the globe are unable to afford a healthy diet. See which countries are most affected.

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The 3 Billion People Who Can’t Afford a Healthy Diet

While they aren’t often the focus of news media, hunger and undernourishment are problems plaguing millions of people every day.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, an additional 112 million more people than in 2019. The increase was partly because of rising food prices, with the average cost of a healthy diet rising by 3.3% from 2019 levels.

As of August 2022, the FAO food price index was up 40.6% from average 2020 levels. Unless income levels increased by a similar magnitude, the healthy diet crisis is likely to have worsened, especially in low-income countries experiencing rampant food inflation.

Using data from the FAO, the above infographic maps the share of people unable to afford a healthy diet in 138 different countries as of 2020 (latest available data).

The Cost and Affordability of a Healthy Diet

According to the FAO, a healthy diet is one that meets daily energy needs as well as requirements within the food and dietary guidelines created by the country.

The (un)affordability is measured by comparing the cost of a healthy diet to income levels in the country. If the cost exceeds 52% of an average household’s income, the diet is deemed unaffordable.

Here’s a look at the share of populations unable to afford a healthy diet, and the cost of such a diet around the world:

CountryPercent of population unable to afford a healthy dietCost of Healthy Diet (USD per Person per Day)
Burundi 🇧🇮97.2%$2.9
Madagascar 🇲🇬97.0%$3.2
Liberia 🇱🇷96.8%$3.9
Malawi 🇲🇼96.6%$3.1
Nigeria 🇳🇬95.9%$4.1
Central African Republic 🇨🇫95.1%$3.6
Guinea 🇬🇳94.9%$4.1
Angola 🇦🇴94.3%$4.5
Congo 🇨🇬92.4%$3.4
Sudan 🇸🇩91.8%$4.3
Mozambique 🇲🇿91.5%$3.2
Democratic Republic of Congo 🇨🇩90.0%$2.1
Sierra Leone 🇸🇱89.2%$2.9
Niger 🇳🇪88.8%$2.9
Zambia 🇿🇲88.0%$3.3
Tanzania 🇹🇿87.6%$2.7
Guinea-Bissau 🇬🇼87.2%$3.5
Ethiopia 🇪🇹86.8%$3.4
Rwanda 🇷🇼86.3%$2.7
Haiti 🇭🇹85.9%$4.5
Sao Tome and Principe 🇸🇹84.7%$3.6
Nepal 🇳🇵84.0%$4.4
Lesotho 🇱🇸83.5%$4.3
Pakistan 🇵🇰83.5%$3.7
Chad 🇹🇩83.4%$2.8
Benin 🇧🇯82.9%$3.7
Uganda 🇺🇬82.2%$2.7
Kenya 🇰🇪81.1%$3.0
Burkina Faso 🇧🇫80.1%$3.3
Laos 🇱🇦79.8%$4.1
Mali 🇲🇱74.3%$3.1
Bangladesh 🇧🇩73.5%$3.1
Egypt 🇪🇬72.9%$3.4
Eswatini 🇸🇿71.8%$3.4
India 🇮🇳70.5%$3.0
Indonesia 🇮🇩69.1%$4.5
Philippines 🇵🇭68.6%$4.1
Jamaica 🇯🇲66.2%$6.7
South Africa 🇿🇦65.2%$4.3
Myanmar 🇲🇲65.1%$4.2
Gambia 🇬🇲64.0%$3.1
Djibouti 🇩🇯63.9%$3.1
Botswana 🇧🇼61.4%$3.7
Ghana 🇬🇭61.2%$4.0
Cameroon 🇨🇲60.7%$2.8
Mauritania 🇲🇷60.7%$3.7
Fiji 🇫🇯60.4%$3.9
Suriname 🇸🇷58.8%$5.7
Namibia 🇳🇦56.8%$3.5
Bhutan 🇧🇹53.0%$5.0
Mongolia 🇲🇳51.4%$5.1
Honduras 🇭🇳51.3%$3.5
Iraq 🇮🇶49.6%$3.5
Kyrgyzstan 🇰🇬49.6%$3.2
Sri Lanka 🇱🇰49.0%$3.9
Senegal 🇸🇳46.0%$2.3
Guyana 🇬🇾43.0%$4.9
Armenia 🇦🇲42.9%$3.2
Tajikistan 🇹🇯42.1%$3.5
Cabo Verde 🇨🇻38.1%$3.6
Belize 🇧🇿36.4%$2.1
Gabon 🇬🇦36.3%$3.6
Nicaragua 🇳🇮35.7%$3.3
Algeria 🇩🇿30.2%$3.8
Vietnam 🇻🇳30.0%$4.1
Colombia 🇨🇴26.5%$3.1
Mexico 🇲🇽26.3%$3.3
Bolivia 🇧🇴24.7%$3.8
Palestine 🇵🇸23.1%$3.4
Ecuador 🇪🇨21.4%$2.9
Saint Lucia 🇱🇨20.6%$3.6
Peru 🇵🇪20.5%$3.3
Iran 🇮🇷20.3%$3.6
Tunisia 🇹🇳20.3%$3.6
Albania 🇦🇱20.1%$4.2
Brazil 🇧🇷19.0%$3.1
Dominican Republic 🇩🇴18.3%$3.9
Panama 🇵🇦18.2%$4.5
North Macedonia 🇲🇰18.0%$3.4
Paraguay 🇵🇾17.8%$3.5
Montenegro 🇲🇪17.5%$3.5
Thailand 🇹🇭17.0%$4.3
Costa Rica 🇨🇷16.8%$4.1
Morocco 🇲🇦16.7%$2.8
Serbia 🇷🇸16.3%$4.2
Jordan 🇯🇴14.9%$3.6
Mauritius 🇲🇺13.5%$3.6
China 🇨🇳12.0%$3.0
Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹11.6%$4.2
Romania 🇷🇴8.8%$3.2
Bulgaria 🇧🇬8.5%$4.1
Seychelles 🇸🇨6.8%$3.8
Moldova 🇲🇩6.7%$2.8
Chile 🇨🇱3.8%$3.4
Croatia 🇭🇷3.8%$4.3
Bosnia and Herzegovina 🇧🇦3.7%$4.0
Uruguay 🇺🇾3.6%$3.4
Russia 🇷🇺3.5%$3.4
Greece 🇬🇷3.2%$3.1
Italy 🇮🇹2.9%$3.1
Japan 🇯🇵2.5%$5.8
Hungary 🇭🇺2.0%$3.5
Spain 🇪🇸2.0%$2.8
Malaysia 🇲🇾1.9%$3.5
Latvia 🇱🇻1.8%$3.2
South Korea 🇰🇷1.7%$5.2
United States 🇺🇸1.5%$3.4
Maldives 🇲🇻1.4%$3.9
Estonia 🇪🇪1.3%$3.3
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿1.2%$2.7
Lithuania 🇱🇹1.2%$3.1
Slovakia 🇸🇰1.2%$3.2
Israel 🇮🇱1.0%$2.5
Poland 🇵🇱1.0%$3.2
Austria 🇦🇹0.8%$3.0
Australia 🇦🇺0.7%$2.6
Canada 🇨🇦0.7%$3.0
Malta 🇲🇹0.7%$3.8
Sweden 🇸🇪0.6%$3.3
Portugal 🇵🇹0.5%$2.7
United Kingdom 🇬🇧0.5%$1.9
Denmark 🇩🇰0.4%$2.5
Norway 🇳🇴0.4%$3.5
Cyprus 🇨🇾0.3%$3.0
Belarus 🇧🇾0.2%$3.3
Belgium 🇧🇪0.2%$3.1
Czechia0.2%$3.0
Germany 🇩🇪0.2%$3.0
Netherlands 🇳🇱0.2%$3.0
Finland 🇫🇮0.1%$2.7
France 🇫🇷0.1%$3.2
Ireland 🇮🇪0.1%$2.2
Luxembourg 🇱🇺0.1%$2.7
Slovenia 🇸🇮0.1%$3.1
Azerbaijan 🇦🇿0.0%$2.5
Iceland 🇮🇸0.0%$2.4
Switzerland 🇨🇭0.0%$2.7
United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪0.0%$3.1
World 🌎42.0%$3.5

In 52 countries, more than half of the population cannot afford a healthy diet. The majority of these are in Africa, with the rest located across Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

By contrast, in four countries—Azerbaijan, Iceland, Switzerland, and the UAE—everyone is able to afford a healthy diet. The picture is similar for most European and developed high-income countries, where more than 95% of the population can afford a healthy diet.

When the percentages are translated into numbers, Asia contains the most number of people unable to afford a healthy diet at 1.89 billion, of which 973 million people are in India alone. Another 1 billion people are in Africa, with around 151 million people in the Americas and Oceania.

While hunger is a worldwide concern, it is particularly acute in African countries, which cover all of the top 20 spots in the above table.

Africa’s Deepening Food Crisis

In many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, more than 90% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet.

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly susceptible to extreme climate events and the resulting volatility in food prices. Roughly one-third of the world’s droughts occur in the region, and some sub-Saharan countries are also heavily reliant on imports for food.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deepened the crisis, with many African countries importing over 50% of their wheat from the two countries in conflict. The rising food prices from this supply chain disruption have resulted in double-digit food inflation in many African nations, which means that more people are likely to be unable to afford healthy diets.

The Horn of Africa region at the Eastern tip of Africa is particularly in turmoil. All the countries in the region are reliant on wheat from Russia and Ukraine, with Eritrea (100%) and Somalia (>90%) high up in the import dependency chart. Additionally, the region is facing its worst drought in 40 years alongside ongoing political conflicts. As a result, 22 million people are at risk of starvation.

Population Growth and Food Insecurity

In November of 2022, the global population is projected to surpass 8 billion people, and many of the fastest growing countries are also food-insecure.

By 2050, the global population is likely to increase by 35%, and to meet the growing demand for food, crop production will need to double. Given that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, this increase in crop production will also need to be environmentally sustainable.

As the impacts of climate change intensify and food demand increases, reducing food waste, building climate-resilient agricultural infrastructure, and improving agricultural productivity will all play a key role in reducing the levels of food insecurity sustainably.

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Energy

Visualizing the Range of Electric Cars vs. Gas-Powered Cars

With range anxiety being a barrier to EV adoption, how far can an electric car go on one charge, and how do EV ranges compare with gas cars?

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The Range of Electric Cars vs. Gas-Powered Cars

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

EV adoption has grown rapidly in recent years, but many prospective buyers still have doubts about electric car ranges.

In fact, 33% of new car buyers chose range anxiety—the concern about how far an EV can drive on a full charge—as their top inhibitor to purchasing electric cars in a survey conducted by EY.

So, how far can the average electric car go on one charge, and how does that compare with the typical range of gas-powered cars?

The Rise in EV Ranges

Thanks to improvements in battery technology, the average range of electric cars has more than doubled over the last decade, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

YearAvg. EV RangeMaximum EV Range
201079 miles (127 km)N/A
201186 miles (138 km)94 miles (151 km)
201299 miles (159 km)265 miles (426 km)
2013117 miles (188 km)265 miles (426 km)
2014130 miles (209 km)265 miles (426 km)
2015131 miles (211 km)270 miles (435 km)
2016145 miles (233 km)315 miles (507 km)
2017151 miles (243 km)335 miles (539 km)
2018189 miles (304 km)335 miles (539 km)
2019209 miles (336 km)370 miles (595 km)
2020210 miles (338 km)402 miles (647 km)
2021217 miles (349 km)520 miles* (837 km)

*Max range for EVs offered in the United States.
Source: IEA, U.S. DOE

As of 2021, the average battery-powered EV could travel 217 miles (349 km) on a single charge. It represents a 44% increase from 151 miles (243 km) in 2017 and a 152% increase relative to a decade ago.

Despite the steady growth, EVs still fall short when compared to gas-powered cars. For example, in 2021, the median gas car range (on one full tank) in the U.S. was around 413 miles (664 km)—nearly double what the average EV would cover.

As automakers roll out new models, electric car ranges are likely to continue increasing and could soon match those of their gas-powered counterparts. It’s important to note that EV ranges can change depending on external conditions.

What Affects EV Ranges?

In theory, EV ranges depend on battery capacity and motor efficiency, but real-world results can vary based on several factors:

  • Weather: At temperatures below 20℉ (-6.7℃), EVs can lose around 12% of their range, rising to 41% if heating is turned on inside the vehicle.
  • Operating Conditions: Thanks to regenerative braking, EVs may extend their maximum range during city driving.
  • Speed: When driving at high speeds, EV motors spin faster at a less efficient rate. This may result in range loss.

On the contrary, when driven at optimal temperatures of about 70℉ (21.5℃), EVs can exceed their rated range, according to an analysis by Geotab.

The 10 Longest-Range Electric Cars in America

Here are the 10 longest-range electric cars available in the U.S. as of 2022, based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) range estimates:

CarRange On One Full ChargeEstimated Base Price
Lucid Air520 miles (837 km)$170,500
Tesla Model S405 miles (652 km)$106,190
Tesla Model 3358 miles (576 km)$59,440
Mercedes EQS350 miles (563 km)$103,360
Tesla Model X348 miles (560 km)$122,440
Tesla Model Y330 miles (531 km)$67,440
Hummer EV329 miles (529 km)$110,295
BMW iX324 miles (521 km)$84,195
Ford F-150 Lightning320 miles (515 km)$74,169
Rivian R1S316 miles (509 km)$70,000

Source: Car and Driver

The top-spec Lucid Air offers the highest range of any EV with a price tag of $170,500, followed by the Tesla Model S. But the Tesla Model 3 offers the most bang for your buck if range and price are the only two factors in consideration.

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