Scientists from Brookhaven National Laboratory Monday plan to unveil their latest finding about the blisteringly hot primordial plasma that is theorized to have formed the basis of matter at the dawn of the universe.
At a conference in Washington, the Long Island researchers will announce new details about how that subatomic liquid cooled and condensed after the Big Bang to form protons, atoms and everything else in the world.
Brookhaven scientists were the first to confirm that early matter existed as liquid -- not a gas -- in 2003 by smashing gold atoms together at nearly the speed of light. They performed the experiment with the lab's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a 2.4-mile circular tunnel that accelerates tiny particles using a series of superconducting magnets.
The high-speed collisions generated the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, 7.2 trillion degrees, in an attempt to recreate the conditions in the moments after the Big Bang. The result was a free-flowing liquid of quarks and gluons, which are the building blocks of atoms.
Brookhaven's findings have since been confirmed by researchers at the Large Hadron Collider, the 17-mile accelerator along the Franco-Swiss border where the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle" of physics, was discovered. Still, questions about the primordial plasma have remained.
Researchers from Brookhaven and the Large Hadron Collider are both scheduled to announce new discoveries Monday about the quark-gluon soup. They include more details about how the tiny particles melted into plasma and what smashing together the ions of other elements, including uranium and copper, can reveal about the process.