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Presented By: Department of Physics

Department Colloquium | The Quark Gluon Plasma: A Look Inside the Hottest Matter in the Universe

Anne Sickles (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Under normal conditions quarks and gluons are confined within protons and neutrons, which in turn are confined to the atomic nucleus. However, in the early universe, about a millionth of a second after the Big Bang,the temperature was hot enough that neither nuclei nor protons and neutrons had formed. This matter, consisting of deconfined quarks and gluons is called the Quark Gluon Plasma. This matter can be recreated in laboratory experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and Brookhaven National Laboratory by colliding pairs of nuclei at ultrarelativistic energies. Interestingly, a good description of the bulk properties of this matter can be made in terms of nearly ideal hydrodynamics. A major focus of the current effort in this field is to understand how this fluid behavior emerges from the interactions between the quarks and gluons. The main experimental tool in this study is high momentum quarks and gluons, jets, passing through the plasma which act as short length scale probes. Measurements using the first LHC data from collisions between two lead nuclei at top energies have recently become available and I will discuss what we have learned from these measurements as well as how upcoming data from the LHC and RHIC will together constrain the inner workings of the quark gluon plasma.

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