Coldest – Boomerang Nebula
The coldest place outside of a laboratory is the Boomerang Nebula at 1K or minus 272.15°C, which is even colder than the Universe’s background temperature of 2.7K.
Hottest – Colliding particles in Large Hadron Collider
When particles collide in the soon-to-open Large Hadron Collider they will reach a temperature of a billion, billion kelvin, the same temperature as the Universe mere seconds after the Big Bang.
Slowest – Continental Drift
The average relative speed of continental drift is about 10mm per year.
At one time all the current continents were joined together in one supercontinent called Pangaea but over Earth’s 4.5 billion year history this was broken apart into the continents we know today.
Fastest – The Speed of Light
Light is so fast that it wasn’t until 1926 and the work of A.A. Michelson that we had a good idea of just how fast it is. Light could travel the distance from London to Sydney (13477 miles) and back seven times in one second.
Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity shows that the speed of light in a vacuum is the absolute fastest it is possible to travel. No matter how much energy you have, no matter how big an engine you create, no matter where you are, it simply isn’t possible: if the Universe really is full of aliens then it’s going to be a very, very long time before we meet.
Lightest – The Electron Neutrino
The electron neutrino is so light that it’s very difficult to detect; any detector needs to be buried deep underground where other particles can’t reach it and it needs to be very, very big.
The Super Kamiokande neutrino detector consists of nearly 50 million kilograms of pure water surrounded by 11,200 photomultiplier tubes buried 1000m underground. The photograph below shows workers in an inflatable boat working on one of the detectors.
Heaviest – The Universe
Even though its average density is 300 billion billion billion times less than water’s, the Universe is so huge that it still manages to weigh in with the largest mass.
The image below is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image – a picture of a huge expanse of space containing at least 10,000 of the Universe’s earliest galaxies.