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I learnt a new word recently, courtesy of PhysicsWorld. Yoctosecond. That’s a period of time equal to ten to the power of minus twenty-four of a second. Or 0.000 000 000 000 000 000 000 001 seconds. As in "I’m just popping out – I’ll only be a yoctosecond."

Physicists (or anyone else for that matter) haven’t needed to delve into this short a time-frame before. There are femtosecond lasers (ten to the power minus 15 seconds) but this is still a long way off a yoctosecond.

But it’s thought that the quark-gluon plasma soupy thing that the ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider will look at could emit light pulses that last just a few yoctoseconds.