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Old 06-07-2011, 06:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
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One Bottle of Anti-Matter Please...

I know that in all the important goings on these days (you know, Stanley Cup finals etc) that this piece of news may have gotten lost in the mix. But I've been waiting for this breakthrough almost as long as I've been waiting for the Leafs to win the cup. Well maybe not that long, but it seems that a research group in Vancouver has managed to store anti-matter in a container. For longer than it takes to destroy itself:

For me this is a great technological breakthrough. Would advances develop logarithmically? Are we on the verge of new economies of energy?

Canadians take lead in antimatter experiment


Canadians take lead in antimatter experiment

Scientists 'bottle' elusive material

By Tom Spears, Ottawa Citizen June 6, 2011



A Canadian-led experiment has trapped mysterious antimatter in a container and held it for more than a quarter of an hour -probably longer -giving scientists the first chance to study the stuff.

The first antimatter ever created, in the mid-1990s, annihilated itself in the tiniest fraction of a second.

Now scientists are joking they have time for go for cof-fee while the antimatter waits for them.

"You can practically bottle the stuff," says Marcello Pavan of Triumf, Canada's national particle physics lab in Vancouver.

The work comes from CERN, the Swiss lab better known as the place where scientists smash protons against each other.

But unlike most global science projects where Canada plays a modest role, about one-third of the antimatter group is Canadian.

That includes its leader, Makoto Fujiwara of Triumf in Vancouver, who is thrilled at the new ability to bring an almost unknown material into the lab.

In normal matter an electron with a negative charge orbits a nucleus with a positive proton. In antimatter, a positively-charged version of the electron, called a positron, orbits a negative antiproton. It's famous in science fiction from Star Trek to Angels and Demons.

The Fujiwara team reports today in the journal Nature on 309 antiatoms it has created.

When antimatter touches matter, it annihilates itself in a burst of energy -a fact used over and over in science fiction. When the first real antimatter was manufactured, it would shoot along at close to light speed, bang into ordinary matter and obliterate itself.

Now it sits still, waiting for someone to do experiments on it.

Fujiwara hopes soon to shoot microwaves at it to see whether antihydrogen has the same spectrum as hydrogen. "It's almost like seeing whether they are the same colour," he says. Theory says yes. If they aren't right, "it will rewrite all the textbooks."

Later experiments may look at whether antimatter has gravity. Again, it should, but no one knows for sure.

"Canadians were actually the ones who pushed for this experiment, so we were in the forefront," Pavan said.

The team at CERN uses a magnet to keep the antimatter hanging in the centre of a vacuum. If they turn off the magnet, antimatter drifts over to the side of this "trap," touches ordinary matter, and is annihilated.

The team, called ALPHA, announced in November, 2010, that they had succeeded in storing antimatter atoms for the first time ever, hav-ing captured 38 atoms of antihydrogen and storing each for a sixth of a second. In the weeks following, ALPHA continued to collect anti-atoms and hold them for longer and longer times.

But why study it at all? "In the beginning of the universe, in the Big Bang, we believe there were equal amounts of matter and antimatter created," said Fujiwara.

Something happened to make the antimatter disappear, and now the hunt is on for an explanation.

Canadians in the team come from Triumf, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser, York University and the University of Calgary.
Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
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