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7 trillion degrees Fahrenheit: Atom-smashing physicists break temperature record (+video)

An atom smasher at Brookhaven National Laboratory has attained a Guinness World Record for highest manmade temperature, generating heat that is 250,000 times warmer than the sun.

The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC, http://www.bnl.gov/rhic ) is a 2.4-mile-circumference particle accelerator/collider that has been operating at Brookhaven Lab since 2000, delivering collisions of heavy ions, protons, and other particles to an international team of physicists investigating the basic structure and fundamental forces of matter. In 2005, RHIC physicists announced that the matter created in RHICs most energetic collisions behaves like a nearly perfect liquid in that it has extraordinarily low viscosity, or resistance to flow.
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A giant atom-smashing racetrack of sorts has just broken a Guinness World Record by reaching the highest man-made temperature ever recorded, scientists announced Monday (June 25).

How hot? 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun.

This scorching achievement happened inside the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), which is a 2.4-mile (3.9 kilometers) underground track where particles smash into one another under conditions that existed about a millionth of a second after the Big Bang.

The new feat, at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., occurred when gold nuclei (the positively charged part of the atom made of protons and neutrons) were sent speeding around RHIC at near light-speed until they crashed into each other. When the ions collide, the enormous energy released is so intense it melts the neutrons and protons inside the gold nuclei into their constituent parts, namely quarks and gluons. [Album: Behind the Scenes at RHIC]

This soup of quarks and gluons formed nearly friction-free primordial plasma thought to resemble the stuff that filled the universe just after the Big Bang created it some 13.7 billion years ago. (This matter would have cooled and condensed to form the protons and neutrons that make up the matter here today.)

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