Go Ask ALICE — scientists enter primeval plasma wonderland

Scientists at CERN have smashed together various particles for the first time, moving closer to learning what was in the super-hot plasma wonderland that formed right after the primeval Big Bang…

The announcement followed another boost for physicists at CERN near Geneva with the effective endorsement by independent experts in a key journal of their claimed discovery of a new particle, the Higgs Boson.

CERN’s ALICE experiment, one of six grouped around its underground Large Hadron Collider (LHC), has been analyzing particles that emerged from the overnight smashing together of tiny hydrogen-derived protons and much larger lead nuclei.

“It was really a pilot run to see if the LHC can produce these asymmetric collision systems. It showed that it can, and it worked like a charm,” Johannes Wessels, an ALICE scientist, told Reuters. “We are very excited about the results.”

The function of ALICE — acronym for A Large Ion Collider Experiment — is to probe what happens to matter when it is heated to 250,000 times the temperature at the centre of the sun — as in the “quark-gluon plasma” at the birth of the cosmos.

Until now, in the search for the Higgs and the “New Physics” that encompasses concepts like super-symmetry, dark matter, extra dimensions and parallel worlds, CERN has smashed only identical particles together at close to the speed of light…

“Whether we’ve been smashing hydrogen protons or lead protons together, it’s been like hitting oranges with oranges. But now it’s like colliding apples and oranges,” said another CERN scientist. “It’s a different ball game.”

The 2-year wait for the coming upgrade is going to rush by like the solar wind.

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