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OSU Researchers win Prize in RHIC Theory Competition

Two members of the Nuclear Theory Group at OSU, Dr. Zi-Wei Lin and Prof. Ulrich Heinz, recently returned from a workshop at the Institute for Nuclear Theory (INT) in Seattle with bottles of excellent Yakima Valley wine which they had won in the "RHIC Theory Competition".

The competition was announced by the organizers of an INT Research Program in 1998, two years before the opening of the new Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Its initiators (Barbara Jacak from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Joe Kapusta from the University of Minnesota, and Xin-Nian Wang from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory) asked theorists for specific and detailed predictions of what the experimenters would see once the machine was turned on. The winner(s) were promised a case of excellent red wine from Washington State which the initiators bought and which Ernest Henley, the first Director of the INT and former president of the American Physical Society, stored in his wine cellar.

The competition closed on the day the first collisions between two beams of gold ions were observed at RHIC (June 13, 2000). On this last day two of the winners, Peter Kolb and Ulrich Heinz, submitted their contribution both to the competition and to Physical Review C for publication. On Dec. 13-15, 2002, the initiators invited the competitors and about 50 other RHIC physicists back to the INT for a three-day workshop on the "First Two Years of RHIC: Theory versus Experiments", to look at the data collected at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and to decide which of the submitted predictions (presented again by their authors at the workshop) have been the most successful.

A panel of judges, consisting of three experimentalists and one non-competing theorist, ranked the entries and, not unexpectedly, decided to split the case of wine. A first batch of three bottles went to the authors of a microscopic kinetic model ("A Multi-Phase Transport Model", AMPT) describing the dynamical evolution of the fireball formed in heavy-ion collisions. Dr. Zi-Wei Lin, presently a postdoc at OSU, accepted one of these bottles for work done while working at Texas A&M University. The largest batch of bottles went to the proponents of the hydrodynamic model which had proven most successful on a quantitative level. Four different groups around the world who had contributed to it each received a bottle, with the first being given to Ulrich Heinz and Peter Kolb for their work on anisotropic transverse flow and the quark-gluon plasma phase transition. Kolb who is now a postdoc at the University of Stony Brook did this work as part of his PhD thesis working with Prof. Heinz. Another batch of three bottles was awarded to Miklos Gyulassy, Xin-Nian Wang and Ivan Vitev for their successful prediction that creation of a quark-gluon plasma at RHIC should lead to "jet suppression" because fast quarks and gluons responsible for hadron jets emerging from the collision zone should lose a large fraction of their energy in the plasma. Two single bottles went to Dima Kharzeev (Brookhaven National Laboratory) for "his most original (though still unconfirmed) prediction of baryon junctions" and to Miklos Gyulassy (Columbia University) "for the sum of all his contributions to RHIC theory".

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