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HEP: Exploring the hot, deconfined plasma created in ultrarelativistic nuclear collisions

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Dennis Perepelitsa, Brookhaven National Laboratory
23 September 2015 from 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
339 Davey Laboratory
Contact Name
Mark Strikman
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Collisions of large nuclei at TeV-scale energies provide a rare opportunity to study the properties of the strong nuclear force in a high-density, high-temperature regime. Investigating the hot, deconfined “quark-gluon plasma” created in these collisions is one of the main goals of experimental programs in progress at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). A historically useful techniques to learn about the properties of this nuclear plasma is through the use of high-energy quarks or gluons knocked free early in the collision, which can be experimentally detected as collimated streams of particles called “jets” emerging from the plasma. These quarks or gluons interact with the expanding, cooling plasma as they traverse it, and thus the resulting jets are sensitive to the properties of the plasma at multiple length scales and temperatures. In addition to phenomena explored in nucleus-nucleus collisions, recent data from the highly asymmetric collisions of protons on nuclei have proved to be particularly interesting: they suggest that tiny drops of a quark-gluon plasma can be created even in very small systems and can even, surprisingly, be used to observe the fluctuations of the proton’s wavefunction. With the LHC scheduled to provide nucleus-nucleus collisions at the highest energy yet available next month, and an ambitious new detector being designed at RHIC, it is a particularly exciting and fruitful time for relativistic nuclear physics. In this talk, I will give an overview of the goals, status and future plans of the experimental programs ongoing at RHIC and the LHC.