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Antimatter on a Scale

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 04:26PM

According to the Big Bang Theory, the Universe began as a single point that exploded to release all of the energy of the Universe. While a great many scientists and lay-people believe this to be how the Universe was created, a large number of scientists recognize it is not this simple. We know energy can spontaneously become mass, and mass become energy, according to the equation E=mc^2, but when energy becomes mass, it does not just become matter; it becomes matter and antimatter.

Antimatter is often considered to be identical to normal matter, but with an opposite charge. If this were the case though, then how could there be any matter in the Universe? Matter and antimatter should have been made in equal quantities, which would then have meant it all would have annihilated and became energy again. For this reason many researchers are working to find out why there is normal matter in the Universe, but no, or very little, antimatter out there.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have an idea of how to find a difference between matter and antimatter. Positronium is the bound state of an electron and its antimatter equivalent, the positron. What the researchers want to do is make a beam of this stuff and see how much it deflects due to gravity. Positrons and electrons have the same mass, so the beam should be deflected as though it were of paired electrons. Any deviation from that model would mean antimatter interacts with gravity differently than regular matter, a revelation which would affect not only the Big Bang Theory but also particle physics.

To perform this experiment though, the researchers must first extend the lifespan of positronium. To do this, the electron and positron have to be excited, so they are far away from each other and also have their angular momentum increased. Basically the particles will be farther apart and revolving so fast it will take as much as 10 ms to collide and cancel out. This is 10,000 times longer than positronium normally lasts and should be enough for the experiment.

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