The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) recently completed at Brookhaven National Laboratory is expected to produce a plasma of quarks and gluons—the state in which matter is thought to have existed in the first microseconds of the Big Bang, before matter coalesced into the neutrons and protons that characterize our universe today (see PHYSICS TODAY, October 1999, page 20). Before entering any such new territory, explorers naturally speculate on what unknowns might be encountered. In this case, the speculations have included a few scenarios—recognized to be extremely remote even by those physicists who have raised them—that could possibly spell danger. Concerns over those scenarios were voiced last summer in the general press. To examine their likelihood, Brookhaven director John Marburger appointed a panel of particle physicists consisting of Wit Busza (MIT), Robert Jaffe (MIT), Jack Sandweiss (Yale University), and Frank Wilczek (Institute for Advanced Study). Their report concludes that “the candidate mechanisms for catastrophe scenarios at RHIC are firmly excluded by existing empirical evidence, compelling theoretical arguments, or both.” ( rhicreport.html)

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