"With nuclear collisions, the LHC has become a fantastic ‘Big Bang' machine," said ALICE spokesperson Jürgen Schukraft. "In some respects, the quark-gluon matter looks familiar, still the ideal liquid seen at RHIC, but we're also starting to see glimpses of something new."
Other observations in the CMS and ATLAS detectors have provided a fascinating look at how this primordial matter interacts with itself.
Immediately after lead ions collided, jets were created by the quarks and gluons blasting away from the micro-Big Bangs. By monitoring how these jets formed, physicists were able to see how the intensely chaotic turmoil evolved.
During proton-proton collisions, these jets are very basic and often form in pairs. In ion-ion collisions, many more particles are generated, producing a huge number of jets. As they tangle together, jets lose energy through interactions scientists are only just beginning to understand. This loss of energy is known as "jet quenching."
I think we are only just witnessing the tip of the iceberg insofar as LHC discoveries, but as we collide particles at higher and higher energies, we peel back the history of the Universe one microsecond at a time.