Dr. Margaret Carrington

Research Involves

Numerical and analytic studies in non-equilibrium field theory, finite temperature field theory and transport theory.

Research Relevance

The research contributes important insights into the quark-gluon plasmas, the study of the universe in its infancy, and into interpreting experimental results from high energy accelerator laboratories.

Investigating High Temperature and Non-Equilibrium Systems: Quarks, Gluons, and the Early University

Our universe was created 12 to 15 billion years ago in a massive explosion called the Big Bang. Approximately 10 microseconds later, when the temperature and concentration of energy were immensely high, a different kind of matter, known as a quark-gluon plasma, briefly existed. Quarks – believed to be the tiniest components from which matter is made – existed freely, prior to clumping together and condensing into protons and neutrons.

The idea of the quark-gluon plasma was proposed over 20 years ago. However, a quark-gluon plasmas is very difficult to create. The first problem is that tremendously high energies are needed to break the bonds that hold the quarks together. The second problem is that the lifetime of the plasma would be very short. The goal is to find ways to recognize when the plasma has been formed, and to study its properties.

Theoretical work in this field focuses on predicting experimental signatures of plasmas formation, where vast numbers of collisions and other interactions are constantly taking place. To study such a system mathematically, scientists must make approximations. The standard approximation is to assume that the particles reach an equilibrium state soon after the plasma is formed. However, since the lifetime of the plasma is extremely short, it is not clear that there is enough time to reach equilibrium before the plasma state dissolves.

The alternative is to study unequilibrated systems. The study of such large unequilibrated systems is an exciting and emerging field, calling for different calculational techniques. Dr. Margaret Carrington is a high-energy theoretical physicist who is making significant contributions to the development of theoretical methods in this field. As a Canada Research Chair, she will continue to develop Canada’s role in this active field of international interest.