CERN Scientists Say They Just Created Antimatter for the First Time in History

Thursday, 05 April 2018 - 11:32AM
Science News
Thursday, 05 April 2018 - 11:32AM
CERN Scientists Say They Just Created Antimatter for the First Time in History
< >
Image credit: YouTube
The universe is a weird place.

Not just the structure itself, but the rules that guide it, and the materials that it's made up of. As difficult as it might be for the human brain to wrap its head around, in addition to all the matter in the universe, there exists antimatter, which is essentially the polar opposite, existing as it does in a negative state.

It's not easy to make sense of this as a concept, but it's even harder to actually track and quantify antimatter. Scientists have speculated for years about the specific behavior of these particles, but up until now, it's been incredibly difficult to study them up close.

The prevailing theory about the creation of the universe is that in the moment of the Big Bang, antimatter and matter were both created in more or less equal parts. Following some rather volatile moments, much of the universe's antimatter disappeared entirely, with its remnants being hard to track down. In theory, antimatter should act a lot like the matter that we're more familiar with.

Finally, a new study has managed to catch antimatter in an observable state, and as it turns out as per our expectations, this weird, unfathomable material actually behaves quite a lot like its standard matter counterpart.

Because antimatter is somewhat hard to come by, scientists at CERN came up with an inventive way to get hold of some antimatter to study: they created their own within a specialized containment chamber.

From there, it was a matter of watching their newly formed antihydrogen to see whether it acted in accordance with established behavior for regular hydrogen, which, thankfully, it did.

According to CERN's Jeffrey Hangst:

Opening quote
"What we're looking for is (to see) if hydrogen in matter and antihydrogen in antimatter behave in the same way. So far, they look the same."
Closing quote

This is good news: it reveals that scientists' current understanding of how antimatter ought to behave is likely along the right lines, but it still doesn't explain exactly what happened at the moment of the Big Bang, and why our universe is sustainable in its current form. We don't know why antimatter is, by and large, missing—or at least inexplicably unobservable.

Considering our current understanding of how the universe works, it shouldn't be this hard to get our hands on antimatter. The strange evil twin of regular matter still hasn't been observed in the wild, and even with all of CERN's resources, they're only able to create antimatter in small scale experiments within confined laboratory experiments.

With such an imbalance within our universe—far more matter than antimatter—the numbers simply don't add up.

Eventually, we may be able to find out where all the antimatter in the universe is hiding and what has caused it to become so scarce, but for the moment, there's still plenty more to learn before we really understand why our existence is even possible in the first place.
Science News