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Note: the following is a media advisory issued by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory regarding the Quark Matter 2004 Conference.
Conference Draws Physicists from Around the World to Oakland, California
Physicists from around the world who study matter under the extreme conditions that existed in the first few microseconds of the universe will gather in Oakland from January 11 through January 16 for the Quark Matter 2004 conference. Hosted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Quark Matter 2004 will be held at the Oakland Marriott City Center.
At this conference, scientists will present the latest results in the historic hunt for a form of matter called a quark gluon plasma (QGP), which is believed to have been the precursor to the matter that makes up our universe today. QGPs are also thought to exist in the dense cores of neutron stars. Creating QGPs in particle accelerators should yield new insights into how our universe was formed and a better understanding of the behavior of atomic nuclei.
In addition to five days of scientific presentations, Quark Matter 2004 will also feature a workshop for teachers on Sunday, January 11, from noon to 5:00 pm. More than 50 teachers, primarily from San Francisco Bay Area high schools and community colleges but some from as far away as Oregon, have already registered for this event which will include lectures by prominent researchers on modern particle and nuclear physics, plus an introduction to the study of quark matter. Howard Matis and Peter Jacobs with Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Science Division organized the workshop.
“The idea is to show a broader community what is being done in our field. One of the best ways to do this, we think, is through teachers and their students,” says Matis. “We have selected speakers who are known for their ability to communicate science to non-experts.”
Quarks are one of the basic constituents of matter. Gluons are carriers of the strong force that binds quarks together into protons or neutrons. In the ordinary matter that makes up the world in which we live, quarks are never free of other quarks or gluons. However, in experiments at powerful particle accelerators, such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York (BNL), or the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, collisions between high-energy beams of atomic nuclei have generated enormous pressures and temperatures nearly one trillion degrees above absolute zero (about 300 million times hotter than the surface of the sun).
Under such extreme conditions, comparable to the immediate time after the Big Bang, the ties that bind quarks and gluons are expected to melt, creating a QGP, which is as different from ordinary matter as water is from ice or steam. The QGP formed in the aftermath of the Big Bang immediately cooled to the ordinary state of matter, but it set the stage for creating the particles that make up our universe today.
Says Xin-Nian Wang, a theorist with Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Science Division, and along with Hans Georg Ritter, one of the principal organizers of Quark Matter 2004, “After three years’ of hard work since the commissioning of RHIC, experimenters are beginning to see trails of the elusive QGP. The latest data and their explanations will be discussed by the international community at this conference and may lead us to the crossroads of discovery.”
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