An elusive primordial soup of particles may have simmered last year in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, or RHIC, a new particle accelerator at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y.
The soup would have been a quark-gluon plasma—an astoundingly hot fluid brimming with quarks and gluons, the building blocks of protons and neutrons. In its attempts to make the plasma, RHIC revs gold nuclei to nearly light speed and slams them together (SN: 8/26/00, p. 136). The particle collisions have yielded the densest, hottest matter ever observed in a lab.
Last week, physicists presented evidence of RHIC's auspicious debut last summer, when it was powered up to 60 percent of its full energy. They say the machine produced the most promising conditions ever for creating a quark-gluon plasma. For more than a decade, physicists have been trying to study this plasma, which presumably existed just microseconds after the Big Bang, and to observe its transition to ordinary ma