Monday, June 6, 2011

The problem with anti-matter

The problem with anti-matter, put simply, is that it doesn't hang about. As soon as an anti-matter particle comes into contact with a particle of matter, both annihilate in a burst of energy. How then do we explain the existence of so much matter? Everywhere we look in the universe (and as far back in time as we can go by looking out across the lightyears of deep space), we see only matter. Scientists working on the Alpha project at Cern are trying to find out by isolating and studying particles of anti-hydrogen. They managed to trap 38 anti-atoms for just 172 milliseconds. Now, by leaving their trap running, the same team report they have managed to hold on to 19 antihydrogen atoms for 1,000 seconds. The length of time antimatter atoms hang around is important because it gives scientists the opportunity to study them in greater detail. "A thousand seconds is more than enough time to perform measurements on a confined anti-atom" says Berkeley Lab's Joel Fajans. "It's enough time for the anti-atoms to interact with laser beams or microwaves. It's even enough time to go for coffee." More>