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IAS Current Affairs: CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) recreates the ‘primordial soup’ that began the universe

IAS Current Affairs: February 16, 2016 
 
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TOPIC: Universe’s ‘primordial soup’ recreated at CERN

Scientists at CERN have recreated the universe’s ‘primordial soup’ in miniature format by colliding lead atoms with extremely high energy in the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
 
The primordial soup is called 'quark-gluon plasma'.
 
Researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, among others, have measured its liquid properties with great accuracy at the LHC’s top energy.
 
Quark-Gluon Plasma:
  • A few billionths of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was made up of a kind of extremely hot and dense primordial soup of the most fundamental particles, especially quarks and gluons. This state is called quark-gluon plasma.
  • Quarks and gluons are elemental particles that make up all other subatomic particles and the atoms they form. 
  • In the seconds after the Big Bang, the normally powerful forces that bind these subatomic particles together were weakened.
  • This resulted in a substance known as the quark-gluon plasma - a strange soup of superheated material.
  • But rather than behaving like a superheated gas as scientists might expect, it appears this primordial soup of particles was more of a liquid, according to research from the Large Hadron Collider. 
 
About the Experimental Method:
  • The scientists created this Primordial Soup by colliding lead nuclei at a record-high energy of 5.02 TeV in LHC, the 27 km-long LHC at CERN in Geneva and also measure its properties. The new measurements make it possible to determine the viscosity of this exotic fluid with great precision.
  • The experimental method is very advanced and is based on the fact that when two spherical atomic nuclei are shot at each other and hit each other a bit off centre, quark-gluon plasma is formed with a slightly elongated shape somewhat like a Rugby Ball.
  • This means that the pressure difference between the centre of this extremely hot ‘droplet’ and the surface varies along the different axes
 
Key Focus:
  • The focus has been on the quark-gluon plasma’s collective properties, which show that this state of matter behaves more like a liquid than a gas, even at the very highest energy densities.
 
Significance of this Experiment:
  • The tiny fireballs created inside the 17 mile long particle accelerator, which is buried 300ft beneath the Alpine foothills along the Swiss-French border, have enabled scientists to recreate some of the conditions that existed shortly after the Big Bang.
  • The experiment could help explain how the early universe behaved more like a liquid rather than a ball of super-heated gas, as has been proposed by some scientists.
 
 

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