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The Warsaw Voice » Other » October 28, 2009
Young Talent
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What Happened After the Big Bang?
October 28, 2009   
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Mikołaj Chojnacki, a young Ph.D. at the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Cracow, has received a cash boost from the Foundation for Polish Science to continue his research into the transformation of matter after the Big Bang.

Chojnacki writes computer programs and builds mathematical models to determine the properties of the primordial form of matter that existed in the universe milliseconds after the Big Bang.

Along with a group of colleagues, Chojnacki has described experimental data from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) project in a single mathematical model.

At the start of the 21st century, scientists discovered that quark-gluon plasma, or the form of matter than existed after the Big Bang, resembled a fluid that could be described by means of a hydrodynamic model. This form of matter can be produced in heavy ion colliders at the CERN center in Switzerland or at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York. The devices enable researchers to recreate a small-scale Big Bang for a short while and examine the properties of the matter generated in the process.

It is impossible to observe plasma because it does not last long enough, Chojnacki says. But huge detectors enable researchers to see the particles into which plasma turns-protons, neutrons, pions and kaons. The detectors register huge amounts of these particles. Researchers study their distribution and get an insight into what was going on during the first few microseconds after the Big Bang. The experiments are supplemented with calculations made on powerful computers.

Chojnacki works at the Polish Academy of Sciences' Institute of Nuclear Physics in Cracow. He deals with relativistic hydrodynamics and recently won a scholarship in the Start program run by the Foundation for Polish Science.

Although he works in Poland, Chojnacki mostly uses data from experiments made abroad. He works in a team with Assoc. Prof. Piotr Bożek and two doctoral students. Prof. Wojciech Florkowski and Prof. Wojciech Broniowski have set research directions for the team.

"At a certain moment, my computations contradicted the main concept which had existed in our narrow field, heavy ion physics. Some properties of the matter had been regarded as obvious, but we challenged this dogma and started to do research our own way," Chojnacki says. "We managed to do a marvelous thing-we described the experimental data from the RHIC accelerator in a single model."
Piotr Bartosz
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