Antimatter pod invented

Antimatter pod invented

Postby Captain Seafort » Wed Nov 17, 2010 8:17 pm

Beeb

Antimatter atoms have been trapped for the first time, scientists say.

Researchers at Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider, have held 38 antihydrogen atoms in place, each for a fraction of a second.

Antihydrogen has been produced before but it was instantly destroyed when it encountered normal matter.

The team, reporting in Nature, says the ability to study such antimatter atoms will allow previously impossible tests of fundamental tenets of physics.

The current "standard model" of physics holds that each particle - protons, electrons, neutrons and a zoo of more exotic particles - has its mirror image antiparticle.

The antiparticle of the electron, for example, is the positron, and is used in an imaging technique of growing popularity known as positron emission tomography.

However, one of the great mysteries in physics is why our world is made up overwhelmingly of matter, rather than antimatter; the laws of physics make no distinction between the two and equal amounts should have been created at the Universe's birth.
Slowing anti-atoms

Producing antimatter particles like positrons and antiprotons has become commonplace in the laboratory, but assembling the particles into antimatter atoms is far more tricky.

That was first accomplished by two groups in 2002. But handling the "antihydrogen" - bound atoms made up of an antiproton and a positron - is trickier still because it must not come into contact with anything else.

While trapping of charged normal atoms can be done with electric or magnetic fields, trapping antihydrogen atoms in this "hands-off" way requires a very particular type of field.

"Atoms are neutral - they have no net charge - but they have a little magnetic character," explained Jeff Hangst of Aarhus University in Denmark, one of the collaborators on the Alpha antihydrogen trapping project.

You can think of them as small compass needles, so they can be deflected using magnetic fields. We build a strong 'magnetic bottle' around where we produce the antihydrogen and, if they're not moving too quickly, they are trapped," he told BBC News.

Such sculpted magnetic fields that make up the magnetic bottle are not particularly strong, so the trick was to make antihydrogen atoms that didn't have much energy - that is, they were slow-moving.

The team proved that among their 10 million antiprotons and 700 million positrons, 38 stable atoms of antihydrogen were formed, lasting about two tenths of a second each.
Early days

Next, the task is to produce more of the atoms, lasting longer in the trap, in order to study them more closely.

"What we'd like to do is see if there's some difference that we don't understand yet between matter and antimatter," Professor Hangst said.

"That difference may be more fundamental; that may have to do with very high-energy things that happened at the beginning of the universe.

"That's why holding on to them is so important - we need time to study them."

Gerald Gabrielse of Harvard University led one of the groups that in 2002 first produced antihydrogen, and first proposed that the "magnetic bottle" approach was the way to trap the atoms.

"I'm delighted that it worked as we said it should," Professor Gabrielse told BBC News.

"We have a long way to go yet; these are atoms that don't live long enough to do anything with them. So we need a lot more atoms and a lot longer times before it's really useful - but one has to crawl before you sprint.

Professor Gabrielse's group is taking a different tack to prepare more of the antihydrogen atoms, but said that progress in the field is "exciting".

"It shows that the dream from many years ago is not completely crazy."


Not only the pod, but antihydrogen. Pretty damn cool. :)
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Mikey » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:28 pm

And next week, a better safety system for the pod than that used by the GCS will be invented. ;)
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Lighthawk » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:36 pm

Awesome stuff.


...so, when do we get our flying cars?
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby shran » Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:23 am

When we get the majority of humans smart enough to fly them and to keep the part of humans not capable of driving them decently on the ground.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Mikey » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:19 pm

Lighthawk wrote:...so, when do we get our flying cars?


They're already here, dude.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Lighthawk » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:50 pm

Cool stuff, though I note a lack of price to be found anywhere.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:28 pm

Ahhh.. playing God with physical particules...

When do we develop Antimatter-based propulsion and weaponry? :evil:
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Mikey » Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:51 pm

We might wany to wait on those until it is developed into a viable general energy source.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Captain Seafort » Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:55 pm

SolkaTruesilver wrote:When do we develop Antimatter-based propulsion and weaponry? :evil:


Not sure about the former, but we'll have the latter as soon as someone finds out where Cern's circuit breakers are.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby IanKennedy » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:32 pm

Interesting. In reading the article it left me wondering why the atoms didn't stay around longer. It didn't seem to say that it was because they got annihilated by real matter. The obvious thought being that if the atoms are not stable enough to last very long that in it's self could answer the question of why the mater in the universe is 'real matter'. Antimatter just isn't stable enough to exist above the size of sub-atomic particles.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Tyyr » Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:52 pm

Interesting idea which immediately begs the question of why wouldn't it be stable given that it's a mirror image of regular matter.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Captain Seafort » Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:56 pm

Well an upside-down wing is the mirror image of a regular wing, so why doesn't it fly?
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Tyyr » Thu Nov 18, 2010 7:58 pm

It flies just fine, the direction of lift just happens to be in the opposite direction you typically want.
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Captain Seafort » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:02 pm

Tyyr wrote:It flies just fine, the direction of lift just happens to be in the opposite direction you typically want.


The phenomenon you describe as "lift...in the opposite direction you typically want" is more widely described in the English language as "crashing". This happens to be the polar opposite of "flying".
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Re: Antimatter pod invented

Postby Tyyr » Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:07 pm

If you want to describe that then you need to define the entire system, such as an airplane as well as it's purpose. A wing continues to perform it's function perfectly fine regardless of which direction it's pointed so long as air is flowing over it. In that way the wing is perfectly suited as an analogy for matter vs. antimatter. It's identical, it functions the same, it just does it in the opposite direction you're used to.

In this case the question is more, "Why does a wing generate lift when it's right side up but when it's upside down it turns into a purple bunny rabbit."
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