An atom-smasher called the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) has just snagged a Guinness World Record for reaching the hottest man-made temperature ever — 250,000 times hotter than the centre of the sun.
The face-melting temperature was achieved when gold nuclei — the part of the atom made of protons and neutrons that has a positive charge — were set zipping around an underground racetrack near light speed until they slammed into one another. NASCAR for particle scientists, except instead of a champagne shower you’re left with a soupy mix of quarks and gluons.
This stew of subatomic particles formed a primordial plasma that scientists liken to the material that filled the universe just seconds after The Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago. And it hit about 4.0 × 1012 degrees Celsius. It might not be very long until we see even more boiling temps — the Large Hadron Collider at Switzerland’s CERN laboratory is expected to trump the record very soon. [LiveScience]
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