Why Physicists Are Planning to Drive Antimatter Around in a Moving Van

Posted by K R on

Antimatter is about to go on its first road trip. Until now, the list of things that travel in vans has pretty much included indie bands, plumbers and undercover surveillance teams. But, according to a report published online in the journal Nature today (Feb. 21), physicists are getting ready to pack up a cloud of billions of antiprotons for the journey of a "few hundred meters" between the physics lab CERN's antimatter factory and the site of an experiment designed to figure out the shapes of bulky, radioactive atoms. Antiprotons are rare but hugely important particles. Every matter particle has an antimatter twin, like the Jekyll to its Hyde, with exactly reversed physical properties. And antiprotons are the bizarro versions of protons, the positively charged particles at the center of atoms. When they collide with protons, they annihilate each other. In nature, antimatter particles are pretty rare. Positrons (bizarro electrons) do occur in lightning bolts and occasionally show up in outer space, but they tend to annihilate one another long before they have a chance to accumulate. So physicists at the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) physics laboratory near Geneva generate them, Nature reported, by "slamming a proton beam into a metal target, then dramatically slowing the emerging antiparticles so they can be used in experiments." And those collected antiprotons can be useful.

Read More: Space.com


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