Scientists at CERN have made another particle-physics breakthrough, this time discovering a way to probe antimatter. As ordinary matter obliterates antimatter, studying it is particularly problematic. This discovery might lead to a new revolution in our understanding of matter’s antithesis.
The ALPHA research group at CERN found a way to create, trap, and hold antimatter. The study marks a significant step in the understanding of the makeup of the early post-big-bang universe, so the results are bound to send shockwaves through the scientific world.
Gone in a Flash
Antimatter is particularly hard to study because it is ultimately undone upon contact with matter. This happens for many complicated reasons, but the layman’s explanation is that, at a subatomic level, antimatter is entirely opposite to matter. For example, the electrons are positively charged instead of negatively charged. When antimatter and regular matter come into contact, they simply disappear in a flash of light.#Antimatter is particularly hard to study because it is ultimately undone upon contact with matter.Click To Tweet
The ALPHA team has been hard at work trying to fix the issue with observing antimatter. Recently, they found a way to create ‘anti-hydrogen’ atoms and hold them in a vacuum through the use of strong magnetic fields. According to Jeffrey Hangst, a physicist with the ALPHA team, the anti-atoms can be held for 15 minutes without being lost.
Holding anti-matter in place is all well and good, but you can’t learn much from them if you can’t probe them. To do this, the team used a specialized laser to learn what makes their homemade antimatter tick. Interestingly enough, the anti-hydrogen atoms respond much like regular hydrogen does under the laser.
“Alpha found a way to create ‘anti-hydrogen’ atoms and hold them in a vacuum with strong magnetic fields.”
The research is interesting, but it doesn’t quite answer all of the questions about antimatter.
What Else Scientists Want to Know About Antimatter
There are many questions that scientists have about antimatter, not the least of which have to do with the universe’s origins.
At the onset of the universe, scientists propose, there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter. These opposing forces should have destroyed each other utterly, but that did not happen. This implies an asymmetry that scientists have trouble explaining.
Another important query has to do with our basic laws of physics. If antimatter follows a different set of physical laws, then our whole understanding of the universe may need an update.
This new tool in examining antimatter may be what pushes our knowledge of particle physics much further.