Thursday, November 18, 2010

Physicists trap antimatter atoms

Berkeley physicists seeking to pierce a mystery as old as the universe joined an international team of scientists Wednesday to report they have trapped and stored a few dozen atoms of antimatter - the stuff that annihilates ordinary matter in a single explosive flash of energy. It's a real-life version of the immortal "Star Trek" fantasy, where antimatter is crucial to speed the Starship Enterprise through the galaxy at warp drive, faster than the speed of light. And although there's no warp drive in high-energy physics, the announcement marks a major achievement: For the first time, the scientists have stored 38 atoms of the antimatter called antihydrogen for a tiny fraction of a second. But even greater success is near, said Joel Fajans, a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, because the international group will soon be gathering much larger numbers of the antimatter atoms and storing them much longer - long enough for experiments that will seek to explain many of the most fundamental properties of the Big Bang that began the universe. More>


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