creation of anti-atoms
creation of antimatter atoms
physicists at CERN have announced that they have passed
through nature's looking glass and created atoms made of antimatter,
or anti-atoms, opening up the possibility of experiments in
a realm once reserved for science fiction writers. such experiments,
theorists say, could test some of the basic tenets of modern
physics and show the way to a deeper understanding of nature.
and antimatter are endowed with equal and opposite characteristics
such as charge and spin, so if they meet they obliterate each
other, releasing a flash of energy upon contact.
scientists see the creation of antihydrogen atoms as
the first step toward testing some physicists' deepest notions
about nature, which hold that antimatter should look and behave
identically to ordinary matter. for example, any violation of
the expected symmetry between hydrogen and antihydrogen, like
a slight difference in the wavelengths of the light they emit,
would rock physics to its core.
by corraling clouds of antimatter particles in a cylindrical
chamber laced with detectors and electric and magnetic fields,
the physicists assembled antihydrogen atoms, the looking-glass
equivalent of hydrogen, the most simple atom in nature. whereas
hydrogen consists of a positively charged proton circled by
negatively charged electrons, in antihydrogen the proton's evil
twin, a positively charged antiproton, is circled by an antielectron,
otherwise known as a positron. they then observed the flashes
of energy when the new antihydrogen atoms annihilated themselves
in collisions with ordinary matter in the walls of the chamber.
at least 50,000 antihydrogen atoms have been created
since the experiment began in August, said Jeffrey Hangst, from
Aarhus University in Denmark, who coordinated efforts by 39
physicists from 10 institutions in a collaboration named Athena.
in science fiction, antimatter, with its perfect convertibility
to energy, is the ultimate rocket fuel, but the CERN scientists
see their anti-hydrogen atoms as a ticket not across the galaxy
but in effect to a different universe, in which clocks run backward,
left is right, and positive is negative.
antimatter has been part of physics ever since 1927,
when its existence was predicted by the British physicist Paul
Dirac. the antielectron, or positron, was discovered in 1932.
according to the theory, matter can only be created in
particle-antiparticle pairs. it is still a mystery, cosmologists
say, why the universe seems to be overwhelmingly composed of
The ATHENA Experiment | ~ | CERN
(Pressrelease): Thousands of cold anti-atoms produced |
~ | CERN:
ATHENA Experiment Quicktime Movie [7Mb] | ~ | CERN:
Antimatter | ~ | Nature:
50,000 atoms of anti-hydrogen made | ~ | Scientific
American: What is antimatter? | ~ | An
introduction to Particle Physics | ~ | BBC:
Antimatter mystery deepens |
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