Sure, there’s the Big Bang, but then what happened? Chat with UT Physics faculty on the UTK Department of Physics and Astronomy Facebook account at 11 a.m. Wednesday, November 30, and find out. Assistant Professor Christine Nattrass and Professor Soren Sorensen will be answering questions about what our universe was like right after it was born.
Shortly after the Big Bang, the universe was a hot mixture of particles called the quark-gluon plasma (QGP). As the universe expanded and cooled, these quarks and gluons froze into hadrons, such as protons and neutrons. With further expansion and cooling, nuclei—and then atoms—were formed.
A QGP can be created in the laboratory by accelerating nuclei to nearly the speed of light and then smashing them together at particle colliders such as the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. A tiny droplet of QGP forms briefly and then expands and cools, forming hadrons. Nattrass, Sorensen, and physicists from around the world work with ALICE: A Large Ion Collider Experiment, to study the QGP and learn more about its properties.