The Cry Baby is on sabbatical ....

Monday, April 4, 2011

Scientists break a law of nature – very briefly

Particle paths after gold ion collision
For a very, very brief instant, scientists at Brook­haven National Laboratory on Long Island recently discovered a law of nature had been broken. Sounds a bit like a detective thriller at this point. The law of physics that had been violated is called "parity", which in simple terms means all things are equal; the universe is neither right or left handed.

The scientists created a quark-gluon plasma — a kind of "soup" that results when energies reach high enough levels to break up protons and neutrons into their constituent quarks and gluons, the fundamental building blocks of matter. The plasma was created by accelerating gold nuclei to 99.999% of the speed of light and smashing them together. Theorists believe this plasma, which has a temperature of four trillion degrees Celsius, existed just after the Big Bang, when the universe was only a microsecond old. The plasma "bubble" created by the scientist lasted for a mere millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second.

Have I lost you yet? A little more ..... The break in parity was detected by the way particles, quarks in particular, traveled along the huge magnetic field produced by the plasma — the strongest ever created.

"If the effect proves to be real, it could help scientists understand a similar asymmetry that led to one of physics' most fundamental mysteries — namely, why the universe is dominated by ordinary matter today when equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created by the Big Bang,"  concludes the Yale University press release.


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