When those gold nuclei collide head-on, a hot, dense plasma of quarks and gluons forms - or, more accurately, something akin to a near-frictionless liquid (a very surprising result, needless to say).
The folks at Guinness are right: It is the hottest temperature yet created by mankind: 4 trillion degrees Celsius, 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun.
And here's the fascinating bit: physicists have now observed the same "near perfect liquid" state of matter at temperatures near absolute zero.
"The unity of physics is a beautiful thing!"
– Steve Vigdor
That's a whopping ten million trillion times colder than RHIC's quark-gluon plasma, according to Brookhaven physicist Steve Vigdor. "This is just one among many unexpected connections we've found between RHIC physics and other scientific forefronts," he told the Bits and Bytes blog. "The unity of physics is a beautiful thing!"
As impressive as this achievement is, RHIC has some pretty stiff competition coming down the pike, by the name of ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). ALICE is one of the other major collaborations at the LHC. Unlike ATLAS and CMS, which are focused on hunting for the Higgs boson, ALICE is focused on studying the QCP and other conditions in the primordial universe.