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The big bang machine may already be living up to its nickname. Researchers on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, have seen hints of what may be the hot, dense state of matter thought to have filled the universe in its first nanoseconds.

Quarks are generally trapped in groups of two or three by the gluons that bind them, but in the moments after the big bang, the universe was so hot that they could escape, becoming a fluid of free quarks and gluons.

A signal thought to represent this quark-gluon plasma has been seen before, following collisions between ions much heavier than the protons that the LHC smashes together. Now the CMS detector has captured a similar signal.

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Category: Science