Scientists claim breakthrough in antimatter hunt
2010-11-18 0:00

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 worldís 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 itís a big breakthrough because it means we can take the next step, which is to try to compare matter and antimatter," the teamís 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 canít tell you how long, because we havenít published the number yet," Hangst told the AP. "But I can tell you that itís 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 doesnít 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 worldís largest physics lab best known for its $10 billion smasher, the Large Hadron Collider. The collider, built deep under the Swiss-French border, wasnít used for this experiment.

Hangstís 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, "Thatís unique, thatís never been done. Thatís where weíre 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 Brownís 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





Related Articles
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
íSomething may come throughí dimensional ídoors: CERN


Latest News from our Front Page

Professor: Reason Itself Is A White Male Construct
2015-07-04 3:55
A philosophy and religion professor at Syracuse University gave an interview to The New York Times Thursday in which he critiqued the notion of pure reason as simply being a “white male Euro-Christian construction.” Prof. John Caputo was being interviewed by fellow philosophy professor George Yancy for the 13th installment of an interview series Yancy conducts with philosophers regarding racial topics. Given its emphasis on first principles ...
The Broken Window Fallacy
2015-07-04 3:48
Youtube description: This short video explains one of the most persistent economic fallacies of our day. Source: youtube.com
Jenji Kohan and the Jewish Hyper-Sexualization of Western Culture
2015-07-04 3:33
As detailed in The Culture of Critique, Freud and his followers regarded anti-Semitism was a universal pathology which had its roots in sexual repression. The theoretical basis for this can be found in Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality where he linked aggression to the frustration of human drives — especially the sex drive. Kevin MacDonald notes that: ...
Confederate History - Dispelling the Myths
2015-07-03 3:28
History books, the media, the school systems, etc abound in falsehoods and inaccuracies of Confederate and Southern history. This fact sheet will help to clarify and dispell some of these rampant inaccuracies. MYTH - The War of 1861 - 1865 was fought over slavery. FACT - Terribly untrue. The North fought the war over money. Plain ...
Gays Rights May Open Door for Pedophile Rights
2015-07-03 3:31
Democrats have attempted to normalize pedophilia as a sexual orientation. A recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage may soon allow pedophiles to argue they are suffering discrimination. ‚ÄúUsing the same tactics used by ‚Äėgay‚Äô rights activists, pedophiles have begun to seek similar status arguing their desire for children is a sexual orientation no different than heterosexual or homosexuals,‚ÄĚ writes Jack Minor ...
More News »