An atom-smasher called the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) has just snagged a Guinness World Record for reaching the hottest man-made temperature ever—250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun.
The face-melting temperature was achieved when gold nuclei—the part of the atom made of protons and neutrons that has a positive charge—were set zipping around an underground racetrack near light speed until they slammed into one another. NASCAR for particle scientists, except instead of a champagne shower you're left with a soupy mix of quarks and gluons.
This stew of subatomic particles formed a primordial plasma that scientists liken to the material that filled the universe just seconds after the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago. And it hit about 7.2 trillion degrees Fahrenheit (around 4.0 × 1012 kelvin -- thanks, commenters!) If you think last week was scorching, you wouldn't want to be inside the RHIC. Because you would die. And it might not be very long until we see even more boiling temps—the Large Hadron Collider at Switzerland's CERN laboratory is expected to trump the record very soon. [LiveScience]
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