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Quark-gluon plasma reveals viscosity-free properties


Enlarge (credit: Girolamo Sferrazaa Papa | Getty Images)

The early Universe was a strange place. The Universe was so dense and hot that atoms and nuclei could not form—they would be ripped apart by high-energy collisions. Even protons and neutrons could not survive. And that left us with quarks and gluons flying around to form something called a quark-gluon plasma.

We’ve observed these in the lab, but those findings are not without controversy—the quark-gluon plasma seemed to form under unexpected conditions. Now, it seems that science has done its job and done the experiments to confirm that, yes, those observations were almost certainly quark-gluon plasmas.

Quarks? Gluons? English or Klingon?

The Universe is divided into families of particles. On one side, we have the leptons: electrons and their overweight cousins, muons and tauons (and their invisible friends, a corresponding neutrino). Then there are the force carriers: photons, W and Z bosons, the Higgs, and gluons. On the other side we have a charming family of colorful quarks. All of these particles are a bit like Legos: put them together in various ways to create a Universe (the instruction book can be a bit overwhelming though).

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