The Big Bang's Favorite Soup
Kate Steiner and Ethan Feng
medium: Adobe Illustrator, tomato juice, and very hot stove
"Heat matter up enough, and eventually, even the forces that hold the protons and neutrons within the nucleus concede, giving rise to a chaotic sea of free subatomic particles. But even that is not the end…at extraordinary temperatures on the order of five trillion degrees Celsius, even the strong force that binds quarks together must yield: under such extreme conditions, the quarks and gluons within individual protons and neutrons are ripped apart. This gives rise to a chaotic mélange of freely flowing, unbound quarks and gluons—appropriately named quark-gluon soup. In it, no molecules, no atoms, and no protons or neutrons can exist—only a structureless sea of the individual elementary particles that usually comprise them, unable to combine to form anything greater because the enormous temperatures overwhelm any attempt at bonding...physicists hypothesize that in the fraction of time immediately after the big bang, before ordinary matter came to be, the entire universe was a quark-gluon soup. Then, as the universe rapidly expanded and cooled off, in the blink of an eye, the quarks agglomerated to form matter as we know it." -- excerpt from "The Big Bang's Favorite Soup" by Ethan Feng
Kate created this delicious soup inspired by Ethan's soon-to-be-published article on the state of matter when it is heated to extreme temperatures and what it tells us about the very beginnings of the universe.
Kate Steiner is a junior undergraduate majoring in astronomy with a special interest in astrovisualization and science communication. They like long walks in the park, a steaming cup of tea on a chilly evening, and screaming into the void. Find more of Kate's art on their Instagram @opiartsy and listen to the science and society podcast they co-host, "What Do We Know?", on Spotify.
Ethan Feng is a chemistry major who is also fascinated by deep philosophical questions on the side. He currently works in the Gonzalez lab, studying ribosomes and the mechanisms of protein synthesis in cells. Previously, he researched catalytic platinum nanoparticles that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After graduating from Columbia, Ethan hopes to pursue a PhD in chemistry and to work in academia. When he's not working, you can find him raving about how much he loves the Ferris avocado toast!