Heavy-quark probes of the quark-gluon plasma and interpretation of recent data taken at the BNL Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider
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Thermalization and collective flow of charm (c) and bottom (b) quarks in ultrarelativistic heavy-ion collisions are evaluated based on elastic parton rescattering in an expanding quark-gluon plasma (QGP). We show that resonant interactions in a strongly interacting QGP (sQGP), as well as parton coalescence, can play an essential role in the interpretation of recent data from the BNL Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider (RHIC), and thus illuminate the nature of the sQGP and its hadronization. Our main assumption, motivated by recent findings in lattice quantum chromodynamics, is the existence of D- and B-meson states in the sQGP, providing resonant cross sections for heavy quarks. Pertinent drag and diffusion coefficients are implemented into a relativistic Langevin simulation to compute transverse-momentum spectra and azimuthal asymmetries (v(2)) of b- and c-quarks in Au-Au collisions at RHIC. After hadronization into D- and B-mesons using quark coalescence and fragmentation, associated electron-decay spectra and v(2) are compared to recent RHIC data. Our results suggest a reevaluation of radiative and elastic quark energy-loss mechanisms in the sQGP.