Thomas Hemmick, Stony Brook University
The state of RHIC physics: Adventures at the highest temperatures achieved by man
Many of man's basic scientific pursuits can be summarized as a quest to understand where we came from. In nuclear physics, this quest has taken us to early times in the history of the universe when the temperatures and densities were so high that not only were no nuclei possible, but it is even theorized that nucleons themselves (protons and neutrons) should dissolve into their more fundamental constituents called quarks and gluons. This theorized form of matter goes by the term Quark-Gluon Plasma or QGP.
Realizing QGP in the
laboratory requires temperatures on the order of 1012 Kelvin. These
temperatures can only be realized in high energy nuclear accelerators in which
the kinetic energy of the beam is effectively transferred into heat by cascading
collisions and recollisions of produced particles as provided by nuclear beams.
We will discuss the nature of these collisions and what is the present state of
our understanding as to whether we have indeed created, even for a brief
instant, the stuff of creation, the Quark Gluon Plasma.