Experiments will shortly begin at Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. While our modest expectation is that these experiments will provide data on multiparticle production in a regime where it can be confronted by QCD-based phenomenology, our boldest hope is that they will also provide insight into the properties of matter at very high energy density -- the quark-gluon plasma (QGP).
My aim is to show how a systematic program of RHIC experiments may reveal properties of quark-gluon plasma. The key features that can distinguish QGP from a nucleon-meson gas are quark deconfinement and chiral-symmetry restoration. Deconfinement makes the QGP a "plasma" capable of conducting color fields. Chiral symmetry breaking, which explains the masses of pions and other hadrons, is roughly analogous to Cooper pairing in a superconductor.
I will discuss how recent CERN and Brookhaven experiments have broadened our knowledge of the evolution of dense hadronic systems and prepared us for RHIC. I will discuss how RHIC observables can exhibit QGP properties, focusing on "J/psi suppression," "pion interferometry" and "disoriented chiral condensate" formation. This talk is intended to bridge between the recent experimental colloquium by Claude Pruneau and more-theoretical colloquium by Sasha Makhlin.