Angels and Demons Antimatter Bomb Exists: Scientists stabilise the staple of science fiction disasters for 16 Whole Minutes
Posted June 10, 2011on:
Scientists have successfully stored anti-matter – the mysterious substance used as a weapon of mass destruction in the novels of Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.
Researchers at CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider, had bottled antimatter back in 2010, keeping hold of the atoms for a fraction of a second.
But CERN have now managed to store antimatter, made from hydrogen, for a record 16 minutes – 5,000 times longer than their previous attempt.
The research, published in journal Nature Physics, tells how the ALPHA experiment at CERN created a ‘magnetic bottle’ – a superconducting magnet – which suspended the antiatoms away from the walls, to store the antihydrogen.
Scientists have kept minute amounts of antimatter in the lab for nearly ten years but they have struggled to keep it for any length of time because antimatter is immediately destroyed when stored conventionally.
Research scientist Professor Makoto Fujiwara said: ‘We have confined antihydrogen atoms for at least 1,000 seconds. That’s almost as long as one period in hockey! This is potentially a game changer in antimatter research.’
‘Does antimatter shine in the same colour as matter? Does it experience the gravity in the same way as matter?
‘These are still very difficult experiments, and they will take long and hard work, but this new result is a very important step. Now experiments will be about 10,000 times less difficult than before!’
Antimatter featured in the film Angels and Demons, based on Dan Brown’s novel of the same name.
In the film, a bottle of antimatter is stolen from CERN by a secret society, which then threatens to unleash its destructive power.
Just half a gramme of antimatter would have the explosive force of 20 Hiroshimas but CERN points out it would take billions of years to make.
In a booklet debunking the myths of antimatter, CERN said: ‘Antimatter is ‘Perfectly safe, given the minute quantities we can make. It would be very dangerous if we could make a few grams of it, but this would take us billions of years.’
Antimatter is one of the universe’s great mysteries because at the Big Bang, both matter and antimatter should have been created equally.
But since they destroy each other on contact, nothing should have been left but pure light.
Instead, it appears that only the antimatter has vanished while the matter remains – leaving a ‘lost half of the universe’.
Scientists wanted to see if antihydrogen would obey the usual rules of physics but needed to keep hold of it long enough before it was annihilated by matter.
CERN researcher Jeffrey Hangst said: ‘This would provide the first-ever look inside the structure of antihydrogen – element 1 on the anti-periodic table.’
Walter Hardy, of the University of British Columbia, an expert in atomic hydrogen studies, added: ‘I’ve always liked hydrogen atoms.
‘It’s ironic that we are now trying to measure the same properties of antihydrogen that I measured many years ago on regular hydrogen.
‘It is a crucial comparison, though, and will tell us if we truly understand the relationship between matter and antimatter. There is no danger from antimatter.’