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January 30, 20204:00 pm – 5:00 pm (CDT)

Subatomic Swirls: Ultra-relativistic Nuclear Collisions and Nature’s Most Vortical Fluid


Michael Lisa (Ohio State University)


Rainer Fries



Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy

College Station, Texas 77843

Event Details

Ultra-relativistic collisions between heavy nuclei produce the quark-gluon plasma (QGP), a unique state of matter that characterized the early universe for the first few microseconds after the Big Bang. Among the most surprising early results from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) was the discovery that the QGP is a fluid with remarkable properties, and a hydrodynamic treatment is now the standard paradigm in probing the bulk properties of nuclear collisions. Recently, the STAR Collaboration at RHIC announced the discovery of global hyperon polarization in heavy ion collisions. This polarization may be used to extract the rotational substructure of the fluid flow field. The result represents a striking validation of the near-equilibrium hydrodynamic paradigm and establishes the quark-gluon plasma at RHIC as by far the most vortical fluid in Nature. I will discuss some of the intense activity in the field, sparked by the discovery of QGP vorticity. In addition to the rotational fluid substructure, these measurements are sensitive to the extreme magnetic fields expected in heavy ion collisions. A quantitative understanding of these fields is one of the most important issues in the field of heavy ion physics today.

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