The Wednesday Post (17/2/10)

As Thomas is still on holiday and getting his Dong out in public you got me again. Sorry about that.

This morning I found a great little story that I can’t explain to you well because it’s not something that I understand very well either, I just know that it’s awesome.

According to a report in the New York Times a law of nature was broken briefly this morning by researchers in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. Some of you may have heard about the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, well this is collider is smaller and designed to different things but essentially both do the same thing, accelerate particles and make them smash into other particles.

At the RHIC they slam gold atoms into each other and study the debris. Gold atoms are quite large and contain a lot of sub-atomic particles. All up 79 protons and 118 neutrons per atom. Using a nearly 4 kilometre underground ring the gold atoms are accelerated to 99.995% of the speed of light before KABLOOMY!!!!!

The result of this an enormous amount of heat and this causes the atoms to fall apart, momentarily. In this superheated state the physicists can look at the particles that make up the protons and neutrons, the quarks.

I’m not even going to try explain quarks but they are interesting little buggers that spin and jump about all over the shop to give us our sub-atomic particles.

Anyway, due to the immense amount of energy at the site of impact the quarks, and another particle called a gluon, formed a plasma that may be a close simulation to what our universe may have looked like when it was only a microsecond old. So instead of the particles acting like particles they instead acted like a big hot dense soup. Weird.

On top of that the quarks in this plasma seemed to break chiral parity (chiral means being able to tell left from right). As I understand it there are an equal number of ‘left’ and ‘right-handed’ quarks under normal circumstances but when in this super heated plasma and within a magnetic field there was more of one than the other. Although it was predicted that this could happen nobody seemed to expect they would see it.

Who cares? Well it could explain how the symmetry between matter and anti-matter was broken leading to the development of the universe and everything in it. Awesome.

For more info check this out.

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