Sunday, December 5, 2010
Last month, the Large Hadron Collider switched gears. It ended its proton run, involving smashing those elementary particles together, and switched to lead nuclei. The goal is creating an ultra-high temperature substance, called quark-gluon plasma. This fiery liquid is believed to resemble the content of the universe shortly after the Big Bang. Quarks and gluons, the constituents of neutrons, protons and other particles, are normally confined to either triplets or pairs. However, at high energies, their confinement breaks and they are freer to move. The lead nuclei experiments at the LHC thus offer an exciting window to the dawn of time.