In Lab’s High-Speed Collisions, Things Just Vanish

Kenneth Chang in the New York Times:

29blacThe bits and pieces flying out from the high-speed collisions of gold nuclei at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island have not been behaving quite as physicists had expected.

According to one theoretical physicist, the collisions have even been creating a sort of tiny, short-lived black hole – very, very tiny and very, very short-lived. It lasts less than one-10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000th of a second.

And it’s not even really a black hole.

The black holes known to astronomers form when a star (or something larger) collapses and the gravitational pull grows so powerful that nothing can escape, not even light.

The Brookhaven mini-black hole, if it existed, would have nothing to do with gravity. Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC (pronounced rick) for short, accelerates gold nuclei – atoms stripped of their surrounding clouds of electrons – to 99.995 percent of the speed of light and then slams them together, head-on.

More here.