Scientists claim breakthrough in antimatter hunt
By Frank Jordans | WashintonPost.com
Scientists claimed a breakthrough Thursday in solving one of the biggest riddles of physics, successfully trapping the first "anti-atom" in a quest to understand what happened to all the antimatter that has vanished since the Big Bang.
An international team of physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, managed to create an atom of anti-hydrogen and then hold onto it for long enough to demonstrate that it can be studied in the lab.
Photo released by CERN on Thursday, Nov 18, 2010 shows an image taken by the ALPHA annihilation detector showing untrapped antihydrogen atoms annihilating on the inner surface of the ALPHA trap. The events are concentrated at the electrode radius of about 22.3 mm. Scientists at the world’s biggest physics lab said they have achieved a breakthrough in the hunt for antimatter. An international team of physicist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva say they created an entire atom made of antimatter and then for the first time managed to hold onto it. (AP Photo/CERN)
"For us it’s a big breakthrough because it means we can take the next step, which is to try to compare matter and antimatter," the team’s spokesman, American scientist Jeffrey Hangst, told The Associated Press.
"This field is 20 years old and has been making incremental progress toward exactly this all along the way," he added. "We really think that this was the most difficult step."
For decades, researchers have puzzled over why antimatter seems to have disappeared from the universe.
Theory posits that matter and antimatter were created in equal amounts at the moment of the Big Bang, which spawned the universe some 13.7 billion years ago. But while matter - defined as having mass and taking up space - went on to become the building block of everything that exists, antimatter has all but disappeared except in the lab.
Hangst and his colleagues, who included scientists from Britain, Brazil, Canada, Israel and the United States, trapped 38 anti-hydrogen for about one tenth of a second, according to a paper submitted to the respected science journal Nature.
Since their first success, the team has managed to hold the anti-atoms even longer.
"Unfortunately I can’t tell you how long, because we haven’t published the number yet," Hangst told the AP. "But I can tell you that it’s much, much longer than a tenth of a second. Within human comprehension on a real clock."
Scientists have long been able to create individual particles of antimatter such as anti-protons, anti-neutrons and positrons - the opposite of electrons. Since 2002, they have also managed to lump these particles together to form anti-atoms, but until recently none could be trapped for long enough to study them, because atoms made of antimatter and matter annihilate each other in a burst of energy upon contact.
"It doesn’t help if they disappear immediately upon their creation," said Hangst. "So the big goal has been to hold onto them."
Two teams had been competing for that goal at CERN, the world’s largest physics lab best known for its $10 billion smasher, the Large Hadron Collider. The collider, built deep under the Swiss-French border, wasn’t used for this experiment.
Hangst’s ALPHA team got there first, beating the rival ATRAP team led by Harvard physicist Gerald Gabrielse, who nevertheless welcomed the result.
"The atoms that were trapped were not yet trapped very long and in a very usable number, but one has to crawl before you sprint," he told the AP.
Many new techniques painstakingly developed over five years of experimental trial and error preceded the successful capture of anti-hydrogen.
To trap the anti-atoms inside an electromagnetic field and to stop them from annihilating atoms, researchers had to create anti-hydrogen at temperatures less than half a degree above absolute zero.
"Think of it as a marble rolling back and forth in a bowl," said Hangst. "If the marble is rolling too fast (i.e. the anti-atom is too hot) it just goes over the edge."
Next, scientists plan to conduct basic experiments on the anti-atom, such as shining a laser onto it and seeing how it behaves, he said.
"We have a chance to make a really precise comparison between a matter system and an antimatter system," he said, "That’s unique, that’s never been done. That’s where we’re headed now."
Hangst downplayed speculation that antimatter might someday be harnessed as a source of energy, or to create a powerful weapon, an idea popularized in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel "Angels and Demons."
"It would take longer than the age of the universe to make one gram of antimatter," he said, calling the process "a losing proposition because it takes much more energy to make antimatter than you get out of it."
Article from: washingtonpost.com
Antimatter atoms produced and trapped at CERN?
Video from: YouTube.com
Antimatter Detector To Catch Last Shuttle To Space
Could the Sun have a Core of Dark Matter?
Antimatter Triggers Largest Explosion Ever Recorded in Universe
NASA confirms AntiMatter Experiments in Space for 2010
The Truth about Angels, Demons and Antimatter
Big Bang experiment may reveal dark universe: CERN
’Something may come through’ dimensional ’doors: CERN
Latest News from our Front Page
Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North.
The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night.
A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked.
The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough.
Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield.
Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants
Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July.
The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown.
The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent.
He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are.
London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race.
Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event.
|More News » |