q&a: the physics
How do high-energy nuclear collisions allow us to study the early
Scientists believe that, in the fractions of a second after the Big Bang, the expanding
matter was so hot and dense that protons and neutrons couldn't exist yet.
Instead, the early universe was composed of tiny quarks and gluons, which in today's
cool universe are confined to exist only within other particles like
protons. Collisions of heavy nuclei at sufficiently high energies allow us
to explore whether quarks
and gluons do in fact
become deconfined when subjected to high densities, and if so, what the
properties of this quark-gluon matter are.
These pages are under development.