Thursday, November 18, 2010


I just received an email from ‘spaceoperaghost’:

‘Thought this might interest you if it hasn't been emailed or otherwise brought to your attention already. CERN trapped antimatter! I suppose it's too soon to start demanding warp drives and clean energy, but it's still awesome.’

Yeah, I think we can safely assume that this is of interest to me.

Geneva, 17 November 2011. The ALPHA experiment at CERN1 has taken an important step forward in developing techniques to understand one of the Universe’s open questions: is there a difference between matter and antimatter? In a paper published in Nature today, the collaboration shows that it has successfully produced and trapped atoms of antihydrogen. This development opens the path to new ways of making detailed measurements of antihydrogen, which will in turn allow scientists to compare matter and antimatter.


Here’s a link to the article at CERN, and here’s the press release. It’s all rather dry, but then, I have become rather tired of ‘scientists’ who step over the line into politics, produce self-aggrandizing press releases and start making ludicrous predictions based on their work.

CERN created the first nine atoms of antihydrogen in 1995, and then started to produce atoms in large quantities in 2002, as part of the ATHENA and ATRAP experiments. This is the first time that scientists have been able to trap antihydrogen atoms for a long enough time to study them, keeping them at 9 degrees kelvin (-443.47 degrees Fahrenheit, -264.15 degrees Celsius), suspended in a magnetic field inside this Ghostbusters-style machine. The other reason why this is an important step is its potential to solve our need for unlimited energy. When antihydrogen touches matter—as shown in the image above—it releases a huge amount of energy. Many scientists speculate that antimatter may be the key to provide unlimited power capable of driving machines that are unthinkable right now. Eventually, it could be the stuff that could power new engines capable of taking us to the stars at near-light speed.

Um, so why the present press release?


Jebel Krong said...

yeah read about this yesterday - say what you like about CERN but they are starting to do some very interesting things now. besides anything that can hold proper antimatter (not just anti electrons) for fractions of a second is cool.

Jebel Krong said...

ha i meant of course antiprotons - not enough coffee... 0.o

now thanks to CERN we have antihydrogen, how long before heavier elements, and we can hold them indefinitely? i'd say not that long given how quickly technology moves when we overcome major hurdles.

still this seems more up your street:

simpler extracts:

Paul said...

That is quite cool (literally). Thought you might like some more science with literary possibilities. Stars in our galaxy that originated in a separate dwarf galaxy.

Neal Asher said...

It's all very cool, Jebel.

A little aside here. They guy in the dedication for Cowl turned down a job offer from CERN. It was one of his big regrets.

Thanks Paul, I'll take a look.

Anonymous said...

It's not about being the first anti-protons we've captured... it's the fact that we're able to capture them and examine them for periods that even we humans can comprehend (a tenth of a second). That's long enough to actually do a little studying, rather than just hypothesizing.

Still a poorly worded article, but it is news.

Myrddin Emrys said...

'id' is me. You'd think BlogSpot would handle openID logins a bit more gracefully.

wintermute said...

hey thanks for linking stuff like this.

my usual meta-filter is, but I missed this.

In other news, Penrose published on the CMB recently,

kinda makes me anxious that we're living in a false vacuum :P