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  Atom Smashing


The collisions are generated thousands of times per second in the massive machine called the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). Like snowflakes, no two collisions are the same. Each is unique. This is because, the colliding nuclei contain protons and neutrons that are positioned nearly randomly within the nucleus. Also, the laws of quantum mechanics dominant at the length scales we are talking about, allow for constant fluctuations of quarks and gluons in and out of the vacuum. The one nucleus as viewed by the approaching nucleus is really a seething cauldron of quarks and gluons.

The cartoons below, show examples of how protons and neutrons are randomly arranged in several different events.

Because of the nature of the colliding nuclei, the speck of Quark-Gluon-Plasma starts out lumpy, with high and low density regions. These over-densities and under-densities are similar to the over-densities and under-densities that show up as temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background.

 
  Lumpy Gold Ions
  Quark-Gluon Plasma
  Big Bang Analogy
  The Atom Smasher