Thursday, May 05, 2005
From Soup to Matter
The universe may have started out as a liquid. Physicists have believed that in the microseconds following the Big Band, before matter had clumped togehter into atoms, the universe was a hot, gaseous cloud of the tiny particles known as quarks and gluons. Physicists at Long Island, New York's Brookhave National Laboratory say they've succeeded in reproducing this "quark-glucon plasma" by smashing atoms of gold together at velocities approaching the speed of light. To their surprise, this primordial glob was a liquid rather than a gas, despite a temperature of 2 trillion degrees Celsius -- which is 150,000 times hotter than the sun. "Every substance known to mankind before would evaporate and become a gas at 2 million, 3 million degrees," Dr. Dmitri Kharzeev told The New York Times. What kept hte substance in liquid form, he says, was a surprisingly strong interaction between the quarks and the gluons. The universe didn't stay liquid for very long, though. After about 20 seconds, the primordial soup began to turn into ordinary matter.