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Big Bang Heat Created in Lab

published  First Published: 17/02/2010
Article written by: Nigel Brookson
The Department of Energy lab where the record-breaking temperature was reached said the effect was achieved by slamming together gold ions traveling at nearly the speed of light inside the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).
RHIC is a 3.8km-circumference particle accelerator that collides gold ions moving at nearly the speed of light to recreate the conditions of the early universe and explore the fundamental properties and interactions of matter.
On the most basic level, scientists know that the nucleus is made of particles called protons and neutrons, which are made of smaller particles called quarks and gluons, the most fundamental constituents of matter.
They know that the quarks are grouped into triplets held together by gluons (named for their Elmers-like properties). But, they also know that these elementary particles werent always glued together.
Go back about 13.7 billion years, a hundred-millionth of a second after the Big Bang, and youd find quarks and gluons floating freely.
The plasma of four trillion degrees Celsius is 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun and existed for only a few microseconds after the birth of the universe.
It quickly cooled and condensed to form the protons and neutrons that make up everything from individual atoms to stars, planets and people, Brookhaven explains.
The temperature of hot matter is measured by looking at the color, or energy distribution, of light emitted from it, similar to the way one can tell that an iron rod is hot by looking at its glow.
The properties of the matter produced at RHIC were determined using highly sophisticated detectors that looked at the particles the matter emitted during its very brief lifetime; less than one billionth of one trillionth of a second.
Brookhaven played a pivotal role in the design and construction of one of LHC's large detectors, known as ATLAS, and serves as the host laboratory for the U.S. ATLAS collaboration.
The machine, dubbed ATLAS, is one of four facilities located at the LHC near Geneva, in Switzerland. The LHC consists of two circular vacuum pipes in which protons will travel in opposite directions and collide at nearly the speed of light with a total collision energy of 14 tera-electron volts (TeV), or 14 trillion times the typical energy of an electron.
The LHC will devote a month each year to colliding heavy nuclei at energies much higher than RHIC's, extending the exploration of matter one step farther back in time toward the birth of the universe.


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