COLÓQUIO- IFUSP:The Little Bang: results and prospects of the ALICE experiment at the LHC
ALICE is the name of one of the four large experiments at the CERN LHC particle accelerator. It is carried out by a worldwide collaboration of over 1300 scientists from 125 institutions in 35 countries, including Brazil. Since November 2010, the ALICE experiment has studied nuclear collisions at the unprecedented centre of mass energy per nucleon pair of 2.76 TeV, a jump of a factor 13 over the highest energies ever achieved with nuclear beams, the highest ever. In this way, nuclear matter can be studies at extreme densities and temperatures, conditions the Universe experienced in the first microseconds from the Big Bang. The ALICE experimental program addresses fundamental scientific issues such as quark confinement and the origin of nuclear masses and Both the CERN accelerator complex and the experiment performed remarkably well, so that important scientific results could be obtained in a very short time. The talk will cover the experimental challenges of the LHC Heavy Ion program and give an overview of the physics results obtained with the ALICE experiment. The prospects for the future of this exciting scientific field will also be discussed and in particular the long-term plans of the ALICE experiment.