ACUMEN Spring 2022

6 ACUMEN • SPRING 2022 and the physics of the early universe. “In order to measure the suppression of these different states, you have to be able to measure them really well,” Knospe says. “And, that requires a very high-resolution detector.” SOCIOLOGY TRUE STORY Love it or hate it, reality television is a staple of many people’s viewing habits. Sociologist Danielle Lindemann has dissected this genre and argues that, while many people deride it, it can tell us much about our attitudes toward race, gender, class and sexuality. In her latest book, True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us, Lindemann analyzed the content found in reality programming. Many of the shows expose the major elements of power that shape our lives and the extent to which our own realities are socially constructed, she says. “I’ve always been kind of an avid viewer of reality TV,” says Lindemann, associate professor of sociology in the department of sociology and anthropology. “I think that dovetails with my interest in sociology because even before I knew what sociology was, I had a sense that reality TV could teach us about the groups in which we live, about social inequalities and about various dynamics in our social lives.” This genre of television presents viewers with distorted realities, and Lindemann’s work reveals the state of society and how strongly viewers see what is “real.” While reality television is the subject, the book underscores how sociology can help us understand these social worlds that we believe we already understand because we’re a part of them—but we really do not understand them at all. By examining these shows, we can better understand social paradigms like gender, race, class and broad social constructs including families, schools and prisons, she says. These shows demonstrate that probe quark gluon plasma that is produced in these ion collisions. Quarks have a type of charge called color charge, which is only seen by the strong nuclear interaction, the force that holds the nucleus together. If you just have two quarks sitting out in space somewhere, they can see each other’s color charge, be attracted and form a bound state, he says. But if they’re actually sitting in a quark gluon plasma medium, that medium has color charge and will effectively screen the charge of the quark from the antiquark. They won’t be able to see each other through all this other charged medium between them. “They’re going to be less likely to form a bound state. If we measure how many times we see these bound states in these heavy ion collisions, and compare that to how often we see them in collisions where we don’t expect quark gluon plasma, we can quantify how much the formation of these states was suppressed by the presence of the quark gluon plasma,” Knospe says. Bound states with different energies also have different radii, so it’s expected that loosely bound states will be screened more than tightly bound states. The strength of the screening effect also depends on the plasma’s temperature. So, by measuring the relative suppression of different types of quarkonium, it’s possible to characterize the temperature of the quark gluon plasma. Essentially, these heavy quark bound states can be used as a thermometer. The project’s goal is to learn more about the properties of this plasma, which will improve our understanding of the force that holds nuclei together PHYSICS QUARK GLUON PLASMA Relativistic heavy ion collisions ram ions traveling at speeds comparable to the speed of light, by which physicists can study the primal form of matter that occurred in the universe shortly after the Big Bang. These impacts and the properties of the matter produced in them are the focus of research by experimental physicist Anders Knospe. Knospe, assistant professor of physics, uses short-lived particles to explore quark gluon plasma, a fluid of subatomic particles produced in these heavy ion collisions. Supported by the National Science Foundation, he and his colleague at Lehigh, Professor Rosi Reed, are building a detector component to be installed at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. Knospe’s work focuses on heavy quarkonia and bound states of heavy quarks—specifically, charm or bottom quarks. He uses them to BRIEFS BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LABORATORY / SCIENCE SOURCE A detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York.