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Vibrational energy retained by molecules even at a temperature of absolute zero. Since temperature is a measure of the intensity of molecular motion, molecules would be expected to come to rest at absolute zero. However, if molecular motion were to cease altogether, the atoms would each have a precisely known location and velocity (zero), and the uncertainty principle states that this cannot occur, since precise values of both position and velocity of an object cannot be known simultaneously. Thus, even molecules at absolute zero must have some zero-point energy.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on zero-point energy, visit Britannica.com.
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