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Thursday, November 11, 2010

The physicists get all the cool toys

Okay, so this is powerful cool:

The Large Hadron Collider has successfully created a "mini-Big Bang" by smashing together lead ions instead of protons.

The scientists working at the enormous machine on Franco-Swiss border achieved the unique conditions on 7 November.

The experiment created temperatures a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

...

"This process took place in a safe, controlled environment, generating incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures of over ten trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

"At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma."

Quarks and gluons are sub-atomic particles - some of the building blocks of matter. In the state known as quark-gluon plasma, they are freed of their attraction to one another. This plasma is believed to have existed just after the Big Bang.

He explained that by studying the plasma, physicists hoped to learn more about the so-called strong force - the force that binds the nuclei of atoms together and that is responsible for 98% of their mass.


I have to admit, living in a time when we're actually testing so much about how the world works is hella exciting. I just can't wait to see what the LHC turns up.*



* Unless, you know, it turns up a monstrous black hole, but I'm not too worried given that any black hole it produced would evaporate in a fraction of a second.

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