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Surprising Science

Particle Time Machine

The world's largest particle accelerator has produced a primordial state of matter akin to what existed at the dawn of the universe by smashing lead ions together creating small Big Bangs.

The Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile-long underground ring run by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, began colliding lead ions together Nov. 8. These atomic nuclei contain 82 protons, and are much heavier than the lone protons the accelerator was previously colliding. Now two experiments at the LHC—called ATLAS and CMS, respectively—have reported a phenomenon called “jet quenching” that scientists say could reveal secrets about the nature of matter and the evolution of the universe.


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