Hadron Collider detects 'Big Bang' matter
Last Updated: Friday, November 26, 2010 | 5:17 PM ET
By Emily Chung CBC News
A phase of matter created moments after the Big Bang is thought to have been detected at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
"Striking" evidence of a quark-gluon plasma has been observed by a team of researchers, including Canadians, at the facility near Geneva, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced Friday.
"People have been searching for evidence of this for decades," Canadian physicist Richard Teuscher said Friday from CERN's laboratory. "What's exciting is if this is really true … [it's] the first unambiguous measurement of this condition of the early universe."
The results of the experiment by an international collaboration called ATLAS were accepted Friday morning for publication in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters, less than 24 hours after it was submitted, said Teuscher, a research scientist at the Canadian Institute for Particle Physics and a physics professor at the University of Toronto.
Normally, the peer review process takes weeks or months, added Teuscher, a member of ATLAS who did some of the data analysis for the experiment.
Physicists theorize that a few hundred millionths of a second after the Big Bang (about 14 billion years ago), the universe was made of a quark-gluon plasma — an extremely hot soup of very tiny subatomic particles.
Canadian physicist Richard Teuscher, shown inside the tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider during construction a few years ago, said people have been searching for evidence of quark-gluon plasma for decades. (Matthias Haase/CERN)The Large Hadron Collider produces extremely high-energy collisions of larger particles, mimicking the Big Bang and potentially reproducing the types of matter that existed during the early moments of the universe.
In this case, researchers spent three weeks smashing lead ions into one another and measuring the resulting signals. Ions are particles produced by adding or removing electrons from atoms. They are charged and can therefore be propelled by an electromagnetic field inside a particle accelerator or collider.
Teuscher likened the colliding ions to two bean bags crashing at extremely high speed, causing their contents to spray out.
"But it doesn't just spray out randomly all over the place," he added.
Instead, two cones or "jets" of particles spray out in opposite directions.
The lead ions are so massive and the energy of their collision is so high that it is expected to produce a "fireball" of quark-gluon plasma — "something like the fireball produced at the time of the Big Bang."
One of the jets of particles must pass through the fireball to get out the other side, melting in the process.
As predicted, the data shows that in half the collisions, only one of the two jets can be observed, Teuscher said: "The other jet has been blown to smithereens."
The researchers used two different methods to confirm their results. Teuscher added that another experiment called CMS, which uses different detectors, is reporting similar results, although those haven't yet been published.
Peter Krieger, an associate professor of physics at the University of Toronto, said a detector called the forward calorimeter built in Canada by researchers at the University of Toronto and at Carleton University in Ottawa was a key component in the recent discovery.
It helped confirm that the evidence was the result of a certain type of ion collision, where the two ions strike each other head on instead of grazing each other. The head-on collision releases more energy, and is therefore the type that is predicted to produce a quark-gluon plasma.
Next, ATLAS researchers will be collecting more data and poring through it for different kinds of evidence of quark-gluon plasma.A cross-section of the cylindrical ATLAS experimental setup is shown on the left. The lines in the centre are tracks left by the jets of particles produced during the collision. The lighter green and red rings are the detectors, while the dark red and green bars (and the graphs at centre and right) represent the signals they detect. Normally, a collision will generate two signal peaks representing two jets, one on either side of the cylinder. However, in this case, one disappears. (ATLAS experiment/CERN)
Top News Headlines
- Washington bridge collapse not Alberta trucker's fault, wife says
- The wife of the trucker implicated in Thursday's collapse of a bridge in Washington State that serves tens of thousands of commuters daily says her husband is not responsible for the incident. more »
- London attack victim's widow speaks of 'our future together'
- The family of the young British soldier who was killed in a brutal daytime slaying spoke at a press conference on Friday, including his widow who talked about their plans for the future. more »
- Greg Weston: Senate scandal may be Harper's worst hour
- The widening Senate scandal that the prime minister flippantly tried to dismiss as a 'distraction' just days ago has instead become arguably Stephen Harper's worst hour. more »
- Canada ranks 3rd last in paid vacations
- Canada ranks third last among economically advanced countries in the amount of paid vacation time it guarantees its workers, a new U.S. study indicates. more »
Latest Technology & Science News Headlines
- King Richard III buried in 'untidy' grave
- New information has surfaced in the odd tale of the British king buried in a car park. King Richard III's remains, which were discovered August under a parking lot in Leicester, England, were laid to rest in a grave researchers are now saying was "badly prepared" and "untidy." more »
- EU pushes through restrictions to protect bees
- The European Union has approved restrictions on three pesticides to better protect dwindling bee populations, to enter into force by December. more »
- U.S. space chief updates on asteroid lasso mission
- Surrounded by engineers, NASA chief Charles Bolden inspected a prototype spacecraft engine that could power an audacious mission to lasso an asteroid and tow it closer to Earth for astronauts to explore. more »
- Leader of B.C. ocean fertilization project fired
- The California businessman behind a controversial ocean fertilization project off B.C.'s west coast has been fired, but the group behind the project says it still supports the concept. more »
Bob McDonald's Blog
- Chris Hadfield: The gravity of gravity May. 17, 2013 9:58 AM After five months of being Superman and a media superstar, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is now beginning the challenging task of adapting his mortal body and brain to life back on Earth.
Quirks & Quarks
- May 25: The Origin of Feces May. 23, 2013 9:43 AM Cow pies, scat, droppings, guano, dung, manure, night soil, poop, fecal matter, sh*t. Call it what you may, excrement plays a crucial role in evolution, culture and the environment.
- Rob Ford fired chief of staff for telling mayor to 'get help'
- Rob Ford allies to publicly call on mayor to address drug-use allegations
- Man 'lucky to be alive' after Washington bridge collapse
- Greg Weston: Senate scandal may be Harper's worst hour
- Alleged Ford crack video seller not responding to calls
- Pickup truck backs up over mother, 2 children in tent
- Amanda Bynes arrested for allegedly tossing bong out window
- Canada Post campaigns against 'no flyers' mailbox signs
- 3D printers give rise to 'desktop manufacturing'