Ordinary matter has negatively charged electrons circling a
positively charged nuclei. Anti-matter has positively
charged electrons - positrons - orbiting a nuclei with a
negative charge - anti-protons. Only anti-protons and
positrons are able to be produced at this time, but
scientists in Switzerland have begun a series of
experiments which they believe will lead to the creation of
the first anti-matter element -- Anti-Hydrogen.
Early scientists often made two mistakes about anti-matter.
Some thought it had a negative mass and would thus feel
gravity as a push rather than a pull. If this were so, the
antiproton's negative mass/energy would cancel the proton's
when they met and nothing would remain; in reality, two
extremely high-energy gamma photons are produced. Today's
theories of the universe say that there is no such thing as
a negative mass.
The second and more subtle mistake is the idea that
anti-water would only destroy ordinary water, and could
safety be kept in (say) an iron container. This is not so:
it is the subatomic particles that react so destructively,
and their arrangement makes no difference.
Scientists at CERN in Geneva are working on a device called
the LEAR (low energy anti-proton ring) in an attempt to
slow the velocity of the anti-protons to a billionth of
their normal speeds. The slowing of the anti-protons and
positrons, which normally travel at a velocity of that near
the speed of light, is necessary so that they have a chance
of meeting and combining into anti-hydrogen.
The problems with research in the field of anti-matter is
that when the anti-matter elements touch matter elements
they annihilate each other. The total combined mass of both
elements are released in a spectacular blast of energy.
Electrons and positrons come together and vanish into
high-energy gamma rays (plus a certain number of harmless
neutrinos, which pass through whole planets without
effect). Hitting ordinary matter, 1 kg of anti-matter
explodes with the force of up to 43 million tons of TNT -
as though several thousand Hiroshima bombs were detonated
So how can anti-matter be stored? Space seems the only
place, both for storage and for large-scale production. On
Earth, gravity will sooner or later pull any anti-matter
into disastrous contact with matter. Anti-matter has the
opposite effect of gravity on it; the anti-matter is
'pushed away' by the gravitational force due to its
opposite nature to that of matter. A way around the gravity
problem appears at CERN, where fast moving anti-protons can
be held in a 'storage ring' around which they constantly
move - and kept away from the walls of the vacuum chamber -
by magnetic fields. However, this only works for charged
particles, it does not work for anti-neutrons, for example.
The Unanswerable Question
Though anti-matter can be manufactured, slowly, natural
anti-matter has never been found. In theory, we should
expect equal amounts of matter and anti-matter to be formed
at the beginning of the universe - perhaps some far off
galaxies are made of anti-matter that somehow became
separated from matter long ago. A problem with the theory
is that cosmic rays that reach Earth from far-off parts are
often made up of protons or even nuclei, never of
anti-protons or antinuclei. There may be no natural
In that case, what happened to it? The most obvious answer
is that, as predicted by theory, all the matter and
anti-matter underwent mutual annihilation in the first
seconds of creation; but why then do we still have matter?
It seems unlikely that more matter than anti-matter should
be formed. In this scenario, the matter would have to
exceed the anti-matter by one part in 1000 million.
An alternative theory was presented by the physicist M.
Goldhaber in 1956. He stated that the universe divided into
two parts after its formation - the universe that we live
in, and an alternate universe of anti-matter that cannot be
observed by us.
Though they have no charge, anti-neutrons differ from
neutrons in having an opposite 'spin' and 'baryon number'.
All heavy particles, like protons or neutrons, are called
baryons. A firm rule is that the total baryon number cannot
change, though this apparently fails inside black holes. A
neutron (baryon number +1) can become a proton (baryon
number +1) and an electron (baryon number 0 since an
electron is not a baryon but a light particle). The total
electric charge stays at zero and the total baryon number
at +1. But a proton cannot simply be annihilated.
A proton and anti-proton (baryon number -1) can join
together in an annihilation of both. The two heavy
particles meet in a flare of energy and vanish, their mass
converted to high-energy radiation wile their opposite
charges and baryon numbers cancel out. We can make
antiprotons in the laboratory by turning this process
round, using a particle accelerator to smash protons
together at such enormous energies that the energy of
collision is more than twice the mass/energy of a proton.
The resulting reaction is written:
p + p p + p + p + p
Two protons (p) become three protons plus an antiproton(p);
the total baryon number before is:
1 + 1 = 2
And after the collision it is:
1 + 1 + 1 - 1 = 2
Anti-matter elements have the same properties as matter
properties. For example, two atoms of anti-hydrogen and one
atom of anti-oxygen would become anti-water.
The article chosen reflects on recent advancements in
anti-matter research. Scientists in Switzerland have begun
experimenting with a LEAR device (low energy anti-proton
ring) which would slow the particle velocity by a billionth
of its original velocity. This is all done in an effort to
slow the velocity to such a speed where it can combine
chemically with positrons to form anti-hydrogen.
The author of the article, whose name was not included on
the article, failed to investigate other anti-matter
research laboratories and their advancements. The author
focused on the CERN research laboratory in Geneva. 'The
intriguing thing about our work is that it flies in the
face of all other current developments in particle physics'
The article also focused on the intrigue in discovering the
anti-matter secret, but did not focus much on the
destruction and mayhem anti-matter would cause if not
treated with the utmost care and safety. Discovering
anti-matter could mean the end of the Earth as we know it.
One mistake could mean the end of the world and a release
of high-energy gamma rays that could wipe out the life on
earth in mere minutes.
It was quite an interesting article, with a lot of
information that could affect the entire world. The
article, however, did not focus on the benefits or
disadvantages of anti-matter nor did it mention the
practical uses of anti-matter. For example, it did not
indicate that it is too expensive to use for powering
rocket ships, and that it is not safe for household or
industrial use. At this point appears as if it is merely a
race to see who can make the first anti-matter element.
As research continues into the field of anti-matter there
might be some very interesting and practical uses of
anti-matter in the society of the future. Until there is a
practical use, it is merely an attempt to prove which
research lab will be the first to manufacture the