Probing the Properties of the Quark-Gluon Plasma and the Studying QCD in the Strong-field Limit in Heavy Ion Collisions at RHIC and the LHC

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Soon after Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD) was shown to exhibit asymptotic freedom at short distances, it was realized that it might be possible to create a new form of matter at high temperatures (T „d 150 MeV) in which hadrons dissolve and quarks and gluons become locally deconfined. Experiments have been carried out for the last two decades attempting to create this new form of matter, called ¡§quark-gluon plasma¡¨ (QGP), via high-energy collisions of large nuclei. In 2000, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) started operation at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US and results obtained from the first five years of RHIC operation provide the first convincing evidence for creation of the quark-gluon plasma in the laboratory. Measurements at RHIC show that the QGP is opaque to the passage of high-energy quarks and gluons and that interactions between the quarks and gluons in the QGP appears to be much stronger than initially expected. The estimated viscosity to entropy ratio of the QGP has been interpreted as showing that the QGP produced at RHIC is the most perfect fluid ever observed in the laboratory. Measurements from RHIC also suggest that the strong, coherent gluon fields in the incident nuclei play a significant role in the initial particle production and early evolution of the quark gluon plasma. Within the next few years, the large hadron collider will provide Pb+Pb collisions at a nucleon-nucleon center of mass energy of 5.5 TeV, thus opening a new frontier in the study of the QGP. I will provide a summary of the key experimental observables at RHIC, a discussion of their canonical interpretation and then discuss how measurements at the LHC can be used to test these interpretations.