This article I found in the links to an article that someone sent me, and it’s all the way into the “apocalypse” end of the “whopper doozie” category, as a quick reading of the article will demonstrate:
Before we dive into the implications of the article, first consider what it has to say about matter-antimatter reactions:
Because they are equal but opposite forms of matter, particles and antiparticles spectacularly annihilate each other when they collide, a reaction that creates byproducts that can be detected in laboratories and that prove antimatter does exist.
Indeed, what I’ve stated before about matter-antimatter reactions should be borne in mind: they are total annihilation reactions. In other words, imagine one had managed to accumulate 25 kilograms of anti-matter and keep it contained, and then suddenly brought that 25 kilograms of anti-matter into contact with 25 kilograms of ordinary matter. The result would be an annihilation reaction that would make the world’s largest-ever hydrogen bomb – Russia’s “Tsar Bomba” with an enormous yield of 57 megatons – look like a firecracker.
So with that as the context, now consider what the article says. Firstly, it states that this most recent achievement was accomplished under the auspices of CERN:
The milestone was achieved by the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) project, an international collaboration based at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. For team members like Makoto Fujiwara, a researcher at the University of British Columbia’s TRIUMF laboratory and the spokesperson for ALPHA-Canada, the new study is the culmination of decades of imagination and grit.
This, for me, is a significant admission, because I’ve long speculated that the enormous expense invested in CERN throughout the decades of its existence was not simply about proving abstruse notions about theoretical physics; that expense to me represented and represents an ultimately military purpose, and anti-matter (with its potential link to anti-gravity and planet-busting weapons) would certainly be worth the investment.
Now we come to the stunner:
When the first antimatter atoms were generated at CERN during the 1990s, they only existed for a tiny fraction of a second, far too short a period to examine them in detail.
By 2011, however, CERN had pioneered a technique that trapped antihydrogen atoms for a record 1,000 seconds. Fujiwara, who was a co-author of that study, saw this as the breakthrough that could one day make laser-cooling of antimatter particles a reality. This advance could dramatically slow down experimental antimatter atoms from speeds of around 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour), which would allow for more precise observations—and even manipulation—of this bizarre entity.
“Of course, at that time, people kind of laughed at it,” Fujiwara said. “Because it’s such a difficult thing to do, everybody knew. In particular, the laser that was required for antihydrogen-cooling is known to be tremendously difficult. So at that time, it was kind of a pipe dream.”
Despite the intimidating obstacles, Fujiwara was encouraged by a conversation about the topic with Takamasa Momose, another UBC physicist with expertise in laser-cooling, whom he just happened to bump into at a UBC cafeteria. Momose was optimistic that this specialized instrument could be built, and joined the ALPHA collaboration to lead the development of the laser.
In this cold and slowed-down form, the laser light can actually manipulate the antihydrogen, meaning that the antimatter can be controlled and moved with unprecedented precision, allowing researchers to make new observations of its odd properties and behavior. (Boldface emphasis added)
As if that’s not enough, the article also goes on to suggest something else:
The team also hopes to examine other open mysteries, such as the matter asymmetry problem or antimatter’s unknown interactions with gravity: that latter line of research that could provide a novel test of the equivalence principle in Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. (Boldface emphasis added)
In other words, anti-matter might be a path to the control and manipulation of gravity, as well as being a potential new energy source. Why is this so? If Einstein is correct, then anti-matter would simply be another source of mass; x amount of anti-matter will produce the same gravitational effect as x amount of matter without consideration of the opposite charge (spin or rotation) of the particles involved (that’s not actually the equivalence principle in its formal version but it will do for our purposes here). If, on the other hand, there is some sort of coupling effect between gravity and electro-magnetism as others have argued, then there might be some detectable difference . This is not the place to get into all the tests of the equivalence principle, all of which, let it be noted, have involved matter, not anti-matter.
But beyond that wild and woolly speculation, there is a chilling implication to the article.
Suppose, for a moment, that one were some sort of modern-day mad scientist, a modern-day Dr. Strangelove or General Kammler, and one wanted to make an anti-matter bomb. What would be the necessary steps along the technology tree to do so? One would first (1) have to create the anti-matter, then (2) invent a method for its safe containment and storage in large amounts, which implies (3) the ability to store and manipulate it for a prolonged period of time.
If one looks at the article carefully, all three key areas of that technology tree are now extant, though rudimentary form. In other words, scientists have been able to collect not just particles of anti-matter, but now whole “anti-hydrogen” atoms, and control and manipulate them for about 16 minutes, not mere fractions of a second.
The article suggests that all this is very exciting, and may even upset the standard models:
To that point, the ALPHA team plans to continue improving the technique so that they can test out fundamental predictions that antimatter is identical to matter, except for its charge. If they find any other deviations in the antihydrogen particles, it could hint at the existence of new and mind-boggling physics beyond the well-corroborated Standard Model.
I share their excitement, except that I’m certain that my excitement is of a very different character… call it a kind of Weltangst…
See you on the flip side…