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Whirlpools might have stirred up baby universe’s soup

Computer simulations suggest possibility of vortices in quark-gluon plasma

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7:00am, November 18, 2016
quark-gluon plasma illustration

HOT STUFF  A collision of two heavy ions produces an extremely hot, dense state of matter called quark-gluon plasma (illustration shown). Computer simulations indicate that swirling patterns could form in this material.

Complex swirls and vortices can appear in the souplike phase of matter that existed just moments after the Big Bang. Computer simulations show that this substance, called the quark-gluon plasma, can contain “the hottest smoke ring in nature,” says Xin-Nian Wang of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, coauthor of a paper published in the Nov. 4 Physical Review Letters.

Wang and colleagues simulated collisions like those at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., where gold ions are slammed together at nearly the speed of light. Such smashups produce an extremely hot, dense fluid, in which particles called quarks and gluons — the constituents of protons and neutrons — roam free. This quark-gluon plasma hits temperatures of trillions of degrees Celsius, hundreds of thousands of times hotter than the core of the sun (

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