The biggest and most expensive machine on earth, the Large Hadron Collider – LHC – at CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, has enabled scientists using this gigantic atom smasher to create the hottest and densest matter ever madeby earth-bound experimentation.
It is known that one particular state of matter, referred to as quark gluon plasma, existed very briefly, in the milliseconds after the universe-creating big bang almost 14billion years ago now, and the physicists involved in this experiment used the huge device to smash together heavy lead ions at very close to light speed, generating temperatures 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the Sun, more than 1.6 trillion degrees Celsius,.
Whilst doing this, they realized that they recreated the densest material ever observed, only black holes being believed to be denser, results which allowing scientists involved to better understand the evolution of the early universe, by recreating the conditions that existed back then, or getting as close to it as possible
Fundamental building blocks of matter, these quarks, bound together by gluons, form subatomic particles of a composite nature, protons and neutrons, for example, though in the microseconds after the Big Bang, universal was heat and density were such that these particles roamed free.
These startling fresh results confirm what some scientists had suspected, that quark gluon plasma will act in a fluid manner, minimal viscosity impairing progress. The material had been created before, on a much smaller scale at the US Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider in 1999.
One of those involved, University of Melbourne physicist Professor Geoffrey Taylor, thought the project an amazing achievement, as this state of matter doesn’t exist anywhere naturally on Earth and is thought to only now occur during the collision of two neutron stars, so that these results help scientific understanding of the processes tgoing on as stars collapse.
Particle jets, as well as W and Z boson subatomic particles get created in the ion collisions the team ran, giving them insights into conditions existing when the universe was just milliseconds old, the collisions also generating antimatter, helping science understand things that are happening in the cosmos that bit more than they currently do.
The biggest question of all remains to be answered still, however, and is unlikely to be resolved soon.. How the creation of equal amounts of matter and anti-matter did not cancel each other out, as Einstein’s physics say they should, and where all that anti-matter went, leaving so much of the vast cosmos intact/ We can only hope that the truth really is out there, and that we one day find it.