Dec 13, 2022

Particles of light may create fluid flow, data-theory comparison suggests

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics

A new computational analysis by theorists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and Wayne State University supports the idea that photons (a.k.a. particles of light) colliding with heavy ions can create a fluid of “strongly interacting” particles. In a paper just published in Physical Review Letters, they show that calculations describing such a system match up with data collected by the ATLAS detector at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

As the paper explains, the calculations are based on the hydrodynamic particle flow seen in head-on collisions of various types of ions at both the LHC and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a DOE Office of Science user facility for research at Brookhaven Lab. With only modest changes, these calculations also describe seen in near-miss collisions, where that form a cloud around the speeding ions collide with the ions in the opposite beam.

“The upshot is that using the same framework we use to describe -lead and proton-lead collisions, we can describe the data of these ultra-peripheral collisions where we have a photon colliding with a lead nucleus,” said Brookhaven Lab theorist Bjoern Schenke, a co-author of the paper. “That tells you there’s a possibility that in these photon-ion collisions, we create a small dense strongly interacting medium that is well described by hydrodynamics—just like in the larger systems.”

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