Obsolete but not Uninteresting

Scienitists have succeeded in creating a form of matter that has long been suspected to have existed in the first moments of the universe. This strange stuff was formed under the incredible temperatures and pressures of the big bang itself. The universe was far too energetic in those days to support matter as we know it, so only very exotic forms could exist.

Using the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, scientists shot gold ions against each other at very high velocities. Gold is a heavy element, which means the collisions were especially energetic. The temperature at the point of collision exceeded four trillion kelvin, or well over four trillion degrees. Incidentally, this is the highest temperature ever recorded in a laboratory, and probably the highest ever observed, period.

What was the result of these awesome energies? For a moment, a quark-gluon plasma was produced. Quarks and gluons are fundamental particles that are almost always bound together. For example, three quarks are bound together by the strong nuclear force to form a Proton. Quarks are never found freely roaming, unless the energy of them is incredibly high, such as in the experiment outlined above.

This quark-gluon "soup" would have behaved almost like a perfect fluid, with essentially no viscosity. This is similar to the behavior of liquid Helium, although of course the liquid Helium is much, much colder.

It is theorized the universe was only energy dense enough to produce free roaming Quarks for a millionth of a second. After that, it got colder and the strong nuclear force began taming the quarks.

Incidentally, the name "quark" comes from the novel Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. The line "Three quarks for Muster Mark" was the inspiration for the name of the subatomic particle in question. It may seem very strange to base the name of a fundamental particle off of an obscure line in an Irish comedy, but physicists have a certain style. Quarks are strange things, so it is fitting they should have a odd name.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment