CERN trains Large Hadron Collider on primordial plasma

CERN trains Large Hadron Collider on primordial plasma

Summary: The ALICE team is using the charmed quark as a probe to investigate the quark-gluon plasma that existed in the earliest days of the universe.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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It is not just about the Higgs, you know. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN, otherwise known as the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator ever built, is being used to paint the clearest picture yet of the earliest moments of the universe's existence. Part of that puzzle is about the hunt for the Higgs boson, but there are plenty of other areas of interest.

The time just after the Big Bang was strange indeed: matter existed, but not as we know it. The basic building blocks of all matter are quarks and gluons. Quarks come in all sorts of flavours: up, down, strange, charmed, top and bottom.

Today, 13.5 billion years or so after the universe popped into being, these building blocks are neatly arranged inside protons and neutrons. But back in the day, they roamed freely in an extremely hot and dense quark-gluon plasma.

ALICE experiment
The ALICE experiment. Image credit: Mona Schweizer /CERN

It is this primordial plasma that researchers at CERN are seeking to understand. They do this by smashing a couple of billion lead ions into one another and watching to see what happens.

One of the experiments at CERN is called ALICE — A Large Ion Collider Experiment. The ALICE team is using the charmed quark as a probe to investigate the quark-gluon plasma. Because it is so much heavier than the other quarks, its passage through the plasma causes it to slow down, and this allows researchers to discover things about the nature of the plasma.

CERN said in a statement that the ALICE physicists "will report indications that the flow in the plasma is so strong that the heavy charmed particles are dragged along by it". The experiment has also observed "indications of a thermalisation phenomenon, which involves the recombination of charm and anti-charm quarks to form charmonium", according to CERN.

Spokeswoman Fabiola Gianotti said: "We have entered a new phase in which we not only observe the phenomenon of quark-gluon plasma, but where we can also make high-precision measurements using a variety of probes."

She added: "The studies will contribute significantly to our understanding of the early universe."

These results, and others, will be presented at the Quark Matter Conference this week in Washington DC.

Topic: Emerging Tech

Lucy Sherriff

About Lucy Sherriff

Lucy Sherriff is a journalist, science geek and general liker of all things techie and clever. In a previous life she put her physics degree to moderately good use by writing about science for that other tech website, The Register. After a bit of a break, it seemed like a good time to start blogging about weird quantum stuff for ZDNet. And so here we are.

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11 comments
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  • considering such matters

    When you can discover the breath of God, time will stand still awaiting your foolishness to catchup, knowledge Christ gets the job done quicker, (time plus matter)
    computeryaya
    • Charmonium!

      Computeryaya-- you tried 4 times to post that tripe about magical monkeys and psychedelic rainbow bunny rabbits? Let's leave the Gun of Sod out of the hard science for now.
      JaylikeBird
    • Omnipotent Beings Cannot Exist

      Can God dig a ditch so wide he cannot jump across?
      ldo17
  • considering such matters

    When you can discover the breath of God, time will stand still awaiting your foolishness to catchup, knowledge Christ gets the job done quicker, (time plus matter)
    computeryaya
  • considering such matters

    When you can discover the breath of ---, time will stand still awaiting your foolishness to catchup, knowledge ------ gets the job done quicker, (time plus matter)
    computeryaya
  • funny how things work

    You try to post a comment using certain religious words an unknown error a courses, wow i love censorship these days, give you a clue, the first word is deity, the second word is the son of deity.
    computeryaya
    • hey god boy

      god works in mysterious ways.
      Scarface Claw
  • Let's try ta keep da god nonsense off this discussion.

    Go away and pray if ya hafta.
    droidfromsd
  • Oh goodie!!!

    bigger bombs!
    Tony Burzio
    • not bigger

      just way smaller and much simpler; the big reality is that we are all just bits of twisted nuttin' - topology in a word. Geometry... Cosmometry... Zittermetry... Nuttin compounded upon nuttin, ad infinitum... This was realised years ago and we got quantum mechanics and relativity as a foil; a diversion as it were. Now folks are starting to realise that it would not take too much to create infinite free energy with antigravity as a byproduct... and with this 'boon' - we will also have the anyone able to kick off another big bang... are WE ready? Or will 'somthin' else step in and decide for us?

      ps: why did the 'UFO's' disappear when stealth was developed?

      funny that...
      walkerjian
  • ps: why did the 'UFO's' disappear when stealth was developed?

    ummm what?

    Feel like quantifying that in some way?
    Scarface Claw