CERN traps antimatter atoms for 1,000 seconds


Haven’t your own antiproton decelerator? This is what one looks like.

Researchers involved in the ALPHA experiment at Switzerland’s CERN complex announced…that they have succeeded in using the facility’s antiproton decelerator to trap antimatter atoms for 1,000 seconds – or just over 16 minutes. This was reportedly enough time to begin studying their properties in detail, which has been the goal of ALPHA since the project began in 2005…

According the the Big Bang theory, when the universe was created, so were equal amounts of matter and antimatter. While matter is now everywhere in our universe, antimatter is scarce, and projects such as ALPHA are trying to figure out why.

Using microwave spectroscopy, the researchers plan to map the structure of the antihydrogen atoms, and compare it to that of hydrogen atoms. This will involve illuminating the anti-atoms with microwaves, and observing if they absorb the same frequencies as their matter counterparts. Any differences should be easily detectable, and could lead to a better understanding of the nature of antimatter.

Being able to keep the anti-atoms trapped for such a relatively long period should also allow them time to relax into their ground state. This, in turn, should allow the team to make precise measurements needed in order to study a symmetry called CPT. According to the theory, “a particle moving forward through time in our universe should be indistinguishable from an antiparticle moving backwards through time in a mirror universe.” While this is thought to be a rule followed by nature, it may in fact turn out not to be the case.

“Any hint of CPT symmetry breaking would require a serious rethink of our understanding of nature,” said ALPHA spokesperson Jeffrey Hangst. “But half of the universe has gone missing, so some kind of rethink is apparently on the agenda. “

Rock on, folks. I’m sorry – but, I keep slipping forth-and-back into chuckles over those who predicted end-of-the-world black holes from CERN and those who claim anti-atomic particles would never be isolated because they didn’t exist in the first place.

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2 comments

  1. Mr. Fusion

    We don’t know what we don’t know.Although I suspect knowing a little more about antimatter might be interesting, it won’t do diddly squat to make my life any better. But I still want to know.

  2. Kate

    As someone with limits knowledge of antimatter, I found your post informative and easy to grasp. I think your last quote from Jeffrey Hangst really summed up the importance of studying antimatter, or what findings could mean for our understanding of nature. Someday, though probably not a for a while, CERN reps will be able to explain why antimatter is so limited in the universe. I wanted to share this video on the the antimatter experiments with you and your readers. I think you’ll appreciate how it analyzes news coverage from different sources to show various perspectives on the antihydrogen project and physicists’ questions about the lack of antimatter in the universe. I hope you’ll considering embedding the video in your post.

    http://www.newsy.com/videos/antimatter-ready-for-testing/

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