A splash of subatomic particles is created by the collision of gold atom nuclei traveling at nearly the speed of light in Brookhaven National Laboratorys Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. (Brookhaven National Laboratory/STAR Collaboration/courtesy graph)
Using high-speed collisions between gold atoms, scientists think they have re-created one of the most mysterious forms of matter in the universe -- quark-gluon plasma. This form of matter was present during the first microsecond of the Big Bang and may still exist at the cores of dense, distant stars.
UC Davis physics professor Daniel Cebra is one of 543 collaborators on the research. His main role was building the electronic listening devices that collect information about the collisions, a job he compared to "troubleshooting 120,000 stereo systems."
Now, using those detectors, "we look for trends in what happened during the collision to learn what the quark-gluon plasma is like," he said. "We have been trying to melt neutrons and protons, the building blocks of atomic nuclei, into their constituent quarks and gluons," Cebra said. "We needed a lot of heat, pressure and energy, all localized in a small space."
Andy Fell | EurekAlert!
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