Long Island is scorching. Nuclear physicists using Brookhaven National Lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider smash gold ions together at nearly the speed of light and have earned the record for hottest man-made temperature ever: 4 trillion degrees Celsius – that’s 250 000 times hotter than the centre of the Sun. Experiments revealed the neutrons and protons inside the gold nuclei “melt” on impact, releasing the fundamental particles known as quarks and gluons. The particles then form into a liquid-like plasma that is known to have existed in Nature only one-millionth of 1 second after the Big Bang.
To learn more about the nearly friction-free plasma, Brookhaven scientists propose hitting their ions with a stream of ultra-highenergy electrons. Meanwhile, inside the Large Hadron Collider in Europe’s CERN lab, lead ions are smashing together into their own primordial plasma and are expected to break Brookhaven’s official record by 30 per cent. – AH