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4 trillion degrees Celsius

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2010

Using the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, particle physicists have succeeded in creating quark-gluon plasma, the temperature of which is 4 trillion degrees Celsius (about 250,000 times hotter than the center of the Sun). The plasma is believed to be the state the universe was in a microsecond after its creation.

The departure from normal physics manifested itself in the apparent ability of the briefly freed quarks to tell right from left. That breaks one of the fundamental laws of nature, known as parity, which requires that the laws of physics remain unchanged if we view nature in a mirror.

This happened in bubbles smaller than the nucleus of an atom, which lasted only a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. But in these bubbles were “hints of profound physics,” in the words of Steven Vigdor, associate director for nuclear and particle physics at Brookhaven. Very similar symmetry-breaking bubbles, at an earlier period in the universe, are believed to have been responsible for breaking the balance between matter and its opposite antimatter and leaving the universe with a preponderance of matter.