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Smashing gold ions creates most swirly fluid ever

Record-making vorticity found in quark-gluon plasma

12:00pm, February 8, 2017
gold ion collisions

GIVING IT A WHIRL  Collisions of gold ions in the STAR experiment create an intensely whirling fluid. The mess of particles emitted in such collisions (like the one shown above) allows scientists to study the swirls.

High-energy ion collisions have produced the swirliest fluid ever discovered, in a state of matter that mimics the early universe.

To create the überwhirly liquid, scientists slammed gold ions together at velocities approaching the speed of light at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. Such collisions, performed in Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, cook up an ultrahot fluid, re-creating the state of the universe millionths of a second after the Big Bang, before protons and neutrons had formed. In this fluid, known as a quark-gluon plasma, the constituents of protons and neutrons — quarks and gluons — intermingle freely (SN: 12/10/16, p. 9).

Scientists already knew that this fluid is the hottest ever produced in a laboratory, and that it has almost no viscosity. Now, physicists can add one more

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