Beyond the Big Bang: Scientists Unveil Secrets of the Universe’s Earliest Moments

Researchers at Eötvös Loránd University are using advanced particle accelerators to explore the transformation of early Universe’s quark matter into ordinary matter.


Mapping the Primordial Soup

Physicists from Eötvös Loránd University have been investigating the components of the atomic nucleus using the three most advanced particle accelerators globally.

Their research aims to explore the “primordial soup” that existed in the Universe during the initial microseconds after its creation.

Interestingly, their findings indicate that the movement of observed particles bears resemblance to the search for prey of marine predators, the patterns of climate change, and the fluctuations of the stock market.

The Freeze-out Process

In the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang, temperatures were so extreme that atomic nuclei could not exist, nor could nucleons, their building blocks. Hence, the universe was filled with a “primordial soup” of quarks and gluons.

As the universe cooled, this medium underwent a “freeze-out”, leading to the formation of particles we know today, such as protons and neutrons.

This phenomenon is replicated on a much smaller scale in particle accelerator experiments, where collisions between two nuclei create tiny droplets of quark matter. These droplets eventually transition into ordinary matter through freeze-out.

Variations in Quark Matter

However, the properties of quark matter vary due to differences in pressure and temperature that result from the collision energy in particle accelerators.

This variation necessitates measurements to 'scan' matter in particle accelerators of different energies, such as the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) in the US, or the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland.

New accelerators are being constructed specifically for such experiments to understand how the transition between phases occurs and if a critical point emerges on the phase map.


Innovations in Femtoscopy

Researchers from Eötvös Loránd University have utilized femtoscopy techniques to explore the geometry of quark matter.

Femtoscopy utilizes correlations arising from the non-classical, quantum-like wave nature of produced particles to reveal the femtometer-scale structure of the medium.

The Hungarian researchers introduced the Lévy process as a more general framework, which is a good description of various scientific disciplines such as the search for prey by marine predators, stock market processes, and climate change.