Particle Collider To ‘Create’ Early Matter

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GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 1 (UPI) — The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, taking a break from the Higgs boson hunt, will spend time probing conditions of the early universe, physicists said.

The LHC’s main activity for 2011, colliding pairs of protons in a search for Higgs boson — thought to endow other particles with mass — came to an end as scheduled Sunday, NewScientist.com reported.

As physicists turn to analyzing data from that effort, the LHC will be used to collide lead ions starting Nov. 5 to produce pockets of very dense and hot matter, recreating the conditions that existed in the first seconds after the birth of the universe as posited by the big-bang theory.

Scientists say they hope lead ion collisions at the LHC will produce quark-gluon plasma, an exotic state of matter in which quarks — normally bound in pairs or triplets — are able to wander freely as they are thought to have done in the early moments of the universe’s existence.

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