Bill Streever, a biologist and best-selling author of “Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places,” has just published his second scientific survey, which takes place at the opposite end of the temperature spectrum. “Heat: Adventures in the World’s Fiery Places,” features flames, firewalking, and notably, a journey into the heart of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Last July, the intrepid reporter (who’d already interview woodland firefighters and walked across newly formed, still-hot volcanic lava—among other adventures described in the book) met with RHIC physicists at STAR and PHENIX to talk about the 7-trillion-degree “perfect” liquid quark-gluon soup created at RHIC.
Streever’s own passion for science comes across clearly throughout the book. But being at “the top of the thermometer” (the title of his final chapter, dedicated in part to describing RHIC) has its privileges. RHIC’s innermost beam pipes—at the hearts of its detectors, inside which head-on ion collisions create the highest temperature ever measured in a laboratory—have clearly left an impression:
“… I am forever enthralled by Brookhaven’s pipes. At the top of the thermometer, beyond any temperature that I could possibly imagine, those pipes explore conditions near the beginning of the universe … In my day-to-day life, bundled in a thick coat or standing before my woodstove or moving along a snow-covered trail, I find myself thinking of those pipes. And when I think of them, I remember that at the top of the thermometer lies matter with the audacity to behave as though it were absolutely cold, flowing like a perfect liquid…”
For more, check out our full review of the book.