In those first fractions of a second, the universe was so hot that no nuclei could exist. Instead, there was the QGP, made of quarks and gluons (the massless particles that “carry” the force between quarks). But making this exotic plasma in a laboratory requires enormous energies. And RHIC has made it possible. In RHIC’s 2.4-mile-long ring, gold ions whip around the ring in both directions at once, further accelerated by strategically placed coils of wire that emit radiofrequency radiation. There are six different sites around the ring where collisions can occur.
When those gold nuclei collide head-on, a hot, dense plasma of quarks and gluons forms -- or, more accurately, something akin to a near-frictionless liquid (a very surprising result, needless to say).
And folks at Guinness have recognised it as the hottest temperature yet created by mankind: 4 trillion degrees Celsius, 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun. And here’s the fascinating bit: physicists have now observed the same “near perfect liquid” state of matter at temperatures near absolute zero.
That’s a whopping ten million trillion times colder than RHIC’s quark-gluon plasma, according to Brookhaven physicist Steve Vigdor. “This is just one among many unexpected connections we’ve found between RHIC physics and other scientific forefronts,” he told the Bits and Bytes blog.