Research Article

Scale for the Phase Diagram of Quantum Chromodynamics

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Science  24 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6037, pp. 1525-1528
DOI: 10.1126/science.1204621

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Matter described by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interactions, may undergo phase transitions when its temperature and the chemical potentials are varied. QCD at finite temperature is studied in the laboratory by colliding heavy ions at varying beam energies. We present a test of QCD in the nonperturbative domain through a comparison of thermodynamic fluctuations predicted in lattice computations with the experimental data of baryon number distributions in high-energy heavy ion collisions. This study provides evidence for thermalization in these collisions and allows us to find the crossover temperature between normal nuclear matter and a deconfined phase called the quark gluon plasma. This value allows us to set a scale for the phase diagram of QCD.

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