Just a couple of short months ago, we reported that Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider had made the Guinness World Records for achieving the "Highest Manmade Temperature" - a whopping 4 trillion degrees Celsius, 250,000 times hotter than the center of the sun.
That was the work of the lab's PHENIX collaboration, designed to study the formation and characteristics of the quark-gluon plasma (QGP), a state of matter believed to have existed for ten-millionths of a second after the universe's birth.
Even then, we noted that another experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), called ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), was nipping at the record's heels. The latest results from the LHC were just announced at the 2012 Quark Matter conference last week, and sure enough, the record has been beaten - actually, smashed.
Physicists want to know more about the QGP in order to further probe the extreme conditions that existed in the earliest moments of the cosmos. In those first fractions of a second, the universe was so hot that no nuclei could exist. Instead, there was the QGP, made of quarks and gluons (the massless particles that "carry" the force between quarks).
But making this exotic plasma in a laboratory requires enormous energies. Here's a short video detailing how Brookhaven's RHIC achieves them:
ALICE uses lead ions instead of gold ones to create a QGP. The LHC, with its much-higher energies, had no problem beating PHENIX's temperatures by some 38 percent, boosting the record for the hottest manmade material from around 4 trillion degrees Celsius to an eye-popping 5.5 trillion degrees Celsius (that's nearly 10 trillion degrees Fahrenheit).
As impressive as this achievement might be, smashing Guinness records really isn't the point. 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.