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  (Source: Sprouting Sprouts)

A visualization shows the quark gluon plasma "soup" created at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. The soup reaches temperatures that are as hot as the big bang, melting protons and neturons.  (Source: BNL via YouTube)

Vortices were also observed, a part of a phenomena known as "symmetry-breaking" that runs counter to the traditional laws of physics. (Apparently you CAN change the laws of physics!)  (Source: BNL via YouTube)
Conditions have likely not been seen in the last 13.7 billion years

While the Large Hadron Collider's record setting performance in particle collisions is certainly impressive, it's important not to forget about the important contributions that particle physics centers here in the United States are still making.  Fermilab (Batavia, Illinois) was the previous record holder of the highest energy collision and still has a shot at beating the LHC at finding the Higgs boson. 

Another key lab is the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), home to the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a slightly different type of collider that impacts larger particles.  Despite being grossly underfunded, both the Brookhaven NL and Fermilab had both offered stunning research contributions in recent years.

Now BNL can add one more to the list -- achieving temperatures likely not seen since the Big Bang.  The lab produced temperatures of 4 trillion degrees Celsius, 250,000 times hotter than the Sun's interior, during collisions of gold atoms hurtling at almost the speed of light.  To give another benchmark, the collision produced internal heat approximately 40 times that at the center of an imploding supernova star.

The collisions produced a stunning "soup" of quarks and gluons.  The analyzed data indicates that record high temperature caused the protons and neutrons of the gold atoms to "melt" into the quarks and gluons that compose them, which then formed a plasma, known as quark gluon plasma (QGP).  This appears to be the first time man has been able to make such a quark soup.

Dr. William F. Brinkman, Director of the DOE Office of Science, states that the results are amazing.  He comments, "This research offers significant insight into the fundamental structure of matter and the early universe, highlighting the merits of long-term investment in large-scale, basic research programs at our national laboratories.  I commend the careful approach RHIC scientists have used to gather detailed evidence for their claim of creating a truly remarkable new form of matter."

The researchers measured the temperature of the QGP using color and light-based heat analysis techniques, the advanced derivatives of similar techniques used in industrial applications.  And there were surprises. 

States Steven Vigdor, Brookhaven’s Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics, "The temperature inferred from these new measurements at RHIC is considerably higher than the long-established maximum possible temperature attainable without the liberation of quarks and gluons from their normal confinement inside individual protons and neutrons.  However, the quarks and gluons in the matter we see at RHIC behave much more cooperatively than the independent particles initially predicted for QGP."

The biggest challenge in the research, perhaps, was convincing skeptics in the research field that the quark soup was real.  Previously, physicists had predicted that it would have a gas-like form, but results from the BNL, starting in 2005, suggested it was actually a remarkable liquid with no frictional resistance or viscosity. 

The verifications was very challenging; whereas the QGP existed for microseconds after the Big Bang, in the lab it existed for a mere billionth of a trillionth of a second (10^-21 s).  In order to detect what happened in that sliver of time, researchers had to capture the handful of high-energy photons that were thrown off and told exactly how hot the mix got.  The results seem to conclusively indicate that the QGP is indeed a liquid, at least at some temperatures.

Another interesting result was the "symmetry-breaking" behavior observed in the collision bubbles.  In fundamental terms, the phenomena involves the charged particles immersed in the powerful magnetic field within the bubbles moving in directions opposite to what is seen in today's universe.

The results are published in two papers appearing in the journal Physical Review Letters [1] [2].

Following the success, the researchers plan to within a year or two upgrade the RHIC to improve its collision rate and detector capabilities.  Better collisions could reveal other exotic particles like Higgs bosons or their theoretical alternative preons (point particles that some have theorized make up quarks and gluons.

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RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By Regected on 2/16/2010 12:52:16 PM , Rating: 2
Gotta love the alarmist cries of the uninformed skeptic. It is really sad that those without any experience in the field get more credibility with the media since their claims draw more viewers.

RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By Motoman on 2/16/2010 1:53:59 PM , Rating: 2
But the raving lunatic who wants to sue the LHC because he's convinced it will destroy the world is a *story*.

The fact that the LHC is going to do no such thing...well, isn't a story.

RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By MrBlastman on 2/17/2010 3:18:02 PM , Rating: 2
On something more realistic... I wonder if this quark soup can reform to create a different element completely, or, better yet, change the element of gold that was used in this experiment into a compound of several elements.

After all, the protons and neutrons are being stirred up as their base particles and then come back together, perhaps quite differently--or not?

RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By Motoman on 2/18/2010 11:59:07 AM , Rating: 2
...while it's possible that we may yet detect new elements, it would seem to be rather unlikely. We'll see lots of wacky stuff, like Bose-Einstein condensates and such, but those aren't elements. Don't expect any alchemy in here.

RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By mattclary on 2/16/2010 2:00:41 PM , Rating: 2
He wasn't being an "alarmist", just "a lamer trying to use really worn out material to be funny".

RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By MadMan007 on 2/16/2010 2:16:19 PM , Rating: 2
Appeal to emotions is one of the hallmarks of uninformed science-haters.

RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By Smilin on 2/16/2010 2:19:47 PM , Rating: 3
Sense of humor, get some.

RE: Has anyone checked yet...
By UNCjigga on 2/16/2010 3:16:43 PM , Rating: 2
I'm more interested in whether the Vulcans have initiated first contact yet. Seriously, wouldn't this feat qualify Earth's humans as intelligent life?

By Newspapercrane on 2/18/2010 11:32:18 AM , Rating: 2
Nope, just the warp drive. I'm still working on it though.

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