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Physicists Build Bigger 'Bottles' For Antimatter 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
intellitech writes "Once regarded as the stuff of science fiction, antimatter — the mirror image of the ordinary matter in our observable universe — is now the focus of laboratory studies around the world. While physicists routinely produce antimatter with radioisotopes and particle colliders, cooling these antiparticles and containing them for any length of time is another story. Clifford Surko, a professor of physics at UC San Diego, who is constructing what he hopes will be the world's largest antimatter container, said physicists have recently developed new methods to make special states of antimatter in which they can create large clouds of antiparticles, compress them and make specially tailored beams for a variety of uses."
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Physicists Build Bigger 'Bottles' For Antimatter

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can they be pure antiproton? Absolutely pure?

    • by peragrin (659227)

      it better be absolutely pure. because if even one atom is normal matter the whole thing goes bang, and maybe big bang.

      • by Spad (470073)

        Not really, if only one atom is normal matter then it will annihilate with one atom of anti-matter - the rest of the anti-matter will continue to exist without posing a mortal threat to anyone nearby.

        • Anti-proton wanders through normal matter and hits a proton. Boom, 2 anti-protons gone, lots of energy created. The atom the proton was in not only lost a proton but its nucleus may be shattered as well. Depending on the atom, this may result in a net release or absorption of energy.

          In any case, I wouldn't want to be a nearby atom.

          • What energy must an antiproton have to get past the repulsion caused by the electrons of the target atom(s)? I imagine it would eventually annihilate with someone on its way through normal matter, but how far would it get?
            • Oops, that should say something .
            • I'm sure there's a temperature below which a mixture of matter and antimatter would be stable, but I haven't a clue as to what it is (other than that it is likely to be low).

              Might be some really interesting chemistry here...

              • Not really as the system would nevertheless be in an excited state, and would thus have a finite rate of decay.

              • There is not, they will annihilate at any temperature. For specific arrangements there can be states that live longer than other states. For example, positronium, the bound state of an electron and a positron (basically hydrogen but with the protron replaced by a positron), lives much longer before annihilation when it is in a higher energy state. The ground state has an annihilation lifetime of only 125 ps, compared to 1.1 us for the 2S state.

                Why doesn't slashdot display the mu ascii character?

              • by rollzone (1516681)
                hello. i'm too stupid to understand if this is cold fusion.
            • IANAP but my guess is negligible energy.

              As far as classical electromagnetism is concerned, if you consider a classical model of a uniformly, negatively charged sphere of radius R, balanced by a positive point charge at center, there is no electric field acting on a negative charge outside the sphere. Once inside it, an electric field comes out of the center and gets stronger the deeper in it goes. So an antiproton has no trouble there.

              You can solve Schrodinger's equation for the case of a point positi
          • Your forgetting that we really are talking about a *single* proton (~1GeV of rest mass) or even a million protons, its nothing compared to us. All the antimatter ever produced in the history of mankind is not enough energy to light a light bulb for more than a few minutes. We are around high energy events like this all the time from background radiation, especially if you live in Denver or spend a lot of time at the top of mountains or in airliners.
      • Re:Pure antiproton (Score:5, Informative)

        by russotto (537200) on Monday February 21, 2011 @06:13PM (#35272512) Journal

        it better be absolutely pure. because if even one atom is normal matter the whole thing goes bang, and maybe big bang.

        Unless I've done the math wrong, annihilation of one hydrogen/anti-hydrogen pair yields about 3*10^-9 joules. Not much of a bang.

        • Yes, you're wrong. It's 3*10^-10 Joules.

          • by russotto (537200)

            Doh! Damn slide rule makes me keep track of the decimals myself. There's gotta be a better way...

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          Kinda reminds me of the whole Ghostbusters "Don't Cross the Streams (or the Universe will end)" bit. I dunno, maybe it's just because I'm such a fan of Carl Sagan, but things like antimatter and matter colliding will cause space to warp in on itself or something like that just seem patently riduculous. I think a lot of these things where we say absurd scenarios like that are just from a poor understanding of the subject in general, so we greatly highball our estimations, we exaggerate, we dream.

    • A bit of whoosing going on here, eh commodore?
    • by afabbro (33948)
      They say there's no devil...
  • Antimatter has been known and studied since the 1930s or so. I suspect that any science fiction that included antimatter as a subject was written during or after that time. I hate stupid /. headlines.
    • by eobanb (823187)
      Tell that to Dan Brown.
    • by wurp (51446)

      While positrons were experimentally confirmed in 1932, I don't think that qualifies as "antimatter". When people speak of matter they're typically talking about atoms. Antiprotons were not confirmed by experiment until 1955, and there were no reliable reports of anti-atoms until 1995.

      I would say until we have millions or billions of anti-atoms to play with, we can't say we have really studied antimatter. Most of the high level properties of atoms we see day-to-day are emergent from millions of atoms inte

      • I don't entirely disagree with what you're saying, but without knowing your physics background I think you may be missing info on what the main goal of antimatter study is.

        The primary point of interest currently is to determine why matter exists and antimatter doesn't (that is, why the universe is made of matter and antimatter is essentially non-existent). Everything about antimatter *should* be the same as matter, except for opposite charges. If we confirm that with a single atom then we can safely extrapo

        • by wurp (51446)

          I have a BS in physics, but I'm not sure it matters for this discussion. I do think you have a point. I guess it depends on what you mean by antimatter study.

          My personal opinion is that matter and antimatter are entirely symmetrical, and it is only chance that our galaxy is made up almost entirely of matter. The figures I've seen thrown around suggest that only one in a billion "extra" atoms of matter were required to see the distribution we see today, and I think that during early inflation it would hav

          • II don't know any reason to believe distant galaxies are made of matter rather than antimatter.

            Now that's an interesting thought... I hadn't considered that possibility. I agree that there is no way to tell the difference between matter and antimatter at that kind of distance. The tiny amount of space debris flying around wouldn't annihilate enough of anything to be noticeable, so isolated clumps of matter and antimatter would appear to be the same.

            Most arguments I've seen about matter/antimatter is that they should have been attracted to each other and annihilated immediately at the big bang. Obviou

            • by wurp (51446)

              Most arguments I've seen about matter/antimatter is that they should have been attracted to each other and annihilated immediately at the big bang.

              Well, anti-atoms are neutral. It's true that charged particle/antiparticle pairs would have strong attraction, and should have been created near one another, but random interactions would carry some minute portion of them far enough to combine to a neutral form (e.g. an atom) that would have no attraction over any kind of distance.

              You have given me something to

  • "...make specially tailored beams for a variety of uses."
    Read: blowing stuff up.
    I love science!
    • by Strider- (39683)

      Hey now.. this isn't Mythbusters.

    • If it weren't so damn expensive, it'd probably give those crazy kids over in high-density rocket fuels something to chew on, as well...
    • Blowing stuff up in a highly precise way. I'm thinking of ultra-precise machining of mirrors or lenses. Ion streams are already used for this, but they are very slow and don't work on most materials. A positron beam would be faster, and could cut through anything with electrons in. Which means anything.
      • Will it a positron beam cut through my pile of neutron-star matter?

        More seriously, will it cut through muonic atoms that have no electrons?

        • Hmm... given that the neutrons can decay into protons and electrons, I suppose... ask a physicist. Positon-neutron annihilation might be possible, but it's beyond my knowledge of the field.
        • Hey, my cold fusion machine could make use of some of that muonic atoms you have...

    • A trillion positrons is still a very microscopic amount of particles and mass when macro phenomenons (i.e. blow things up) are concerned. You probably wouldn't feel anything if all that was dumped onto your tongue.
  • by ShakaUVM (157947)

    Woot, go UCSD!

    Ushering in the apocalypse since 1960!

    We did a lot of nuke and miltech stuff, especially during the Vietnam War era. I didn't get to do much cool stuff when I was there, just an interference resistant videoconferencing system for soldiers in the field, and some work with severed rabbit hearts kept alive and beating in a vitrious solution...

    The Red Shoe was apparently the 4th sign of the Apocalypse, and the Stuart Art collection is rumoured to have another piece as well, though gazing upon it i

  • This is sooo easy actually. You just use tachyons and Geordi's visor with a quantum entaglement garage door opener.

  • ...they can create large clouds of antiparticles, compress them and make specially tailored beams for a variety of uses."

    And mad scientists all over the world rejoice at the thought of building their first orbital, antimatter death ray.

    On a less sinister note, if they can guide an anti- beam in a controlled manner to impact a regular beam they could take the first steps towards some sort of epic anti-matter based propulsion system.

    • if they can guide an anti- beam in a controlled manner to impact a regular beam

      Don't cross the beams. Trust me. It will be bad.*

      *Blatant copyright violation.

    • by russotto (537200)

      On a less sinister note, if they can guide an anti- beam in a controlled manner to impact a regular beam they could take the first steps towards some sort of epic anti-matter based propulsion system.

      The Tevatron has been doing that for years. So far, the earth has not moved.

  • I assume this means that they've also perfected the use of di-lithium? and, I can't believe that I'm the first one in this bunch to mention dilithium..
  • How much antimatter do you need to make a bomb that will, say, take down an medium-to-high-rise apartment complex?

    Once the technology to create and contain antimatter indefinitely is available AND is small enough to fit on a tabletop, how long before some terrorists buys a condo and sets up a "slow bomb" that will detonate in 10 or 20 years, after it's created and stored enough antimatter to take out the building when it goes boom?

    OK, maybe he's okay if it doesn't take out the building, he just wants to sca

    • creating and storing are completely different. You still need a particle accelerator to create antimatter. Nobody is doing that in their living room anytime soon, if ever.
      • So, I should have RTFA (it is /., do you blame me?) and they talk about positrons from radioactive sources. Still, according to [link="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TNT_equivalent"]wikipedia[/link], 43MT = 1kg Antimatter. Also according to wikipedia, strontium-90 is most commonly used for positron creation. it's half life is 28.90 years. I think more damage could be done by just using the strontium you collected.
      • 1.02MeV, if I recall correctly, to make positrons. Doable in the living room. But containing them isn't, so all you could do is irradiate samples with a positron beam and see what happens. Potentially fun, but not explodey fun.
    • How much antimatter do you need to make a bomb that will, say, take down an medium-to-high-rise apartment complex?ll

      Well, given the definition of matter and antimatter, I guess you would need a medium-to-high-rise load of antimatter to take care of the matter stuff.

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        How much antimatter do you need to make a bomb that will, say, take down an medium-to-high-rise apartment complex?ll

        Well, given the definition of matter and antimatter, I guess you would need a medium-to-high-rise load of antimatter to take care of the matter stuff.

        It depends on what you mean by take down. The Hiroshima bomb released about 1.5 mg of mass for enough kilotons to flatten a building.

      • Of course, when really annihilating the apartment complex in such a way you would create such an explosion (a fuckton of gamma rays, absorbed by the earth, this absorption heats the rock so it evaporates) you would at least dislodge our dear planet from it's orbit and probably rip it to shreds completely. While an interesting science project not something you'd get funding for.
        May be combined with sharks with frikking lasers on their heads of course.
      • Antimatter releases energy when it annihilates itself on contact with matter. It is not the annihilation aspect that people are interested in, but the energy released-- so 1 lb of antimatter is going to have an explosive force greater than pretty much any other 1 lb device we could come up with.

        According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] (look at Hiroshima @15kT, and compare to the note on antimatter (1kg=42 MT)), 1 gram of antimatter should be more than sufficient to level a city block. If you got a "medium-to-high-rise load

      • by hawkfish (8978)

        Well, given the definition of matter and antimatter, I guess you would need a medium-to-high-rise load of antimatter to take care of the matter stuff.

        Yeah just like you would need a similar load of nitro to take it down...

        Or you could just put it somewhere structural in the basement.

  • Get a vat of antimatter, and throw it at a landfill. Storage problem solved. Who cares about "logistics." It's science motherfucka's.
  • by rocker_wannabe (673157) on Monday February 21, 2011 @06:42PM (#35272856)

    Speaking for the antimatter, I believe that there is a misconception. We don't appreciate being called the "anti" matter. We are the other-matter to you. From our perspective, you are the antimatter! You don't like it very much when someone calls YOU antimatter do you. I wish we could all just get along but it was not meant to be. We will continue to annihilate any of you that try to contact us. Please! Just leave us alone!!!!

    Thank You

  • by mevets (322601) on Monday February 21, 2011 @06:48PM (#35272956)

    Can they mount the anti-matter beam emitters on sharks? That would be awesome.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      This sounds interesting:
      >and the creation of much larger bursts of positrons which could eventually enable the creation of an annihilation gamma ray laser.

  • I witness this first hand; the first one was built in the 1980s in NYC. Quite simple really. Load a trap here, open, unlock the system. Insert the trap, release, close, lock the system. Set your entry grid, neutralize your field and... the light is green, the trap is clean..
  • What could possibly go wrong?
  • Russians down bottles of vodka, lone jocks in the wilderness down bottles of Solo, but physicists down bottles of antimatter. Now who's da man, eh?
  • "I never thought I'd see a resonance cascade, let alone create one."

  • "and the science gets done and we make a neat gun for the people who are still alive." Woot! Let there be cake.

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