LHC boffins turn lead into quarko-gluotic Big Bang incrediblo-stuff
Particle-pummelling primordial plasma pulchritude
International boffins are vying with one another in a race to topsy-turvinate the world of physics this week, with a flurry of results due in imminently from radical fabric-of-time-and-space-rending experiments at the Large Hadron Collider - most brutally powerful particle-pummeller ever assembled by the human race.
“It is impressive how fast the experiments have arrived at these results, which deal with very complex physics,” says atom-smashing bigwig Sergio Bertolucci in a statement issued ahead of blockbusting boffinry announcements scheduled for Thursday.
“The experiments are competing with each other to publish first, but then working together to assemble the full picture and cross-check their results. It’s a beautiful example of how competition and collaboration is a key feature of this field of research.”
In recent weeks, the mighty Collider has changed modes. When initially fired up following lengthy repairs (necessitated by a catastrophic electro-blast-triggered helium superfluid explosion mishap in 2007) the LHC was colliding protons. Lately, however, it has instead been powering heavier lead ions around its twin 27km magnetic motorways, and crossing the two streams over inside its huge underground detector-instrument experiment caverns. This causes the ions to crash into one another head on while travelling within a whisker of the speed of light. (See the vid above.)
The conditions created during the tiny but incredibly, inconceivably violent particle prangs replicate those seen at the very dawn of time itself, very soon after the Big Bang, in an era when the entire gigantic vastness of the universe was all somehow packed down so small that it was smaller than one of today's atoms.
Regular atoms are made up of such things as protons and neutrons, which could of course never have existed back in the immediately post-Big Bang era. Instead, the quarks – which make up the protons and neutrons – nowadays firmly stuck together with gluons, rambled about madly in unstructured, elemental-particulate free love style in a setup known as a "quark-gluon plasma".
MYSTERIES of the primordio-plasma JET QUENCH
Small bang recreates Big Bang
Boffins at the detector caverns are tremendously pleased as they believe they have detected firm signs of such quarky proto-stuff being created in lead smashups within their huge subterranean instrument arrays.
“With nuclear collisions, the LHC has become a fantastic 'Big Bang' machine,” says Jürgen Schukraft, spokesperson for the ALICE experiment team.
Physicists are particularly chuffed with the lead-blasting manoeuvres as jets of quarko-gluotic unfeasiblo-plasma emitted from the tiny yet violent collisions are not simply spitting out boringly but interacting in excitingly mysterious ways - this can lead to jets "quenching", which is definitely one in the 10 ring for physics.
“ATLAS is the first experiment to report direct observation of jet quenching,” said ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti, no doubt smugly eyeing the lads from the no-quench facilities. We here on the Reg ultraboffinry desk are particularly impressed with the ATLAS success as we feared we might have inadvertently switched the vast experiment off during a visit to its control room earlier this month.
“The excellent capabilities of ATLAS to determine jet energies enabled us to observe a striking imbalance in energies of pairs of jets, where one jet is almost completely absorbed by the medium," gloats Gianotti. "It’s a very exciting result of which the Collaboration is proud, obtained in a very short time thanks in particular to the dedication and enthusiasm of young scientists.”
Not be outdone, Guido Tonelli of the CMS experiment chips in:
“It is truly amazing to be looking, albeit on a microscopic scale, at the conditions and state of matter that existed at the dawn of time ... Other striking features, like the observation of Z particles, never seen before in heavy-ion collisions, are under investigation."
Z particles or Z bosons are relatively enormous particles, with 100 times the mass of a proton, which are thought to be implicated in the weak force, one of the forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong, weak) which make everything happen.
All the exciting ion-masher discoveries to date are to be outlined at a seminar on Thursday. Meanwhile the Collider will continue to smash heavy ions until 6 December, when it will shut down for the Christmas break. ®