CONTROLLING ANTIMATTER A STEP CLOSERJuly 21, 2011
A couple of days ago I blogged about a galactic-sized twist in the fabric of space-time that might answer some of the puzzles about the charge parity violation, and about why there is so much more matter in the universe than anti-matter.
Well, consider the disturbing implications of this article:
One has to read a bit between the lines here to get that creeping this-may-not-be-good feeling in the stomach. The lines in question, in this case, being these:
"Recently, antimatter made headlines when scientists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, trapped antihydrogen atoms for more than 15 minutes. Until then, the presence of antiatoms was recorded for only fractions of a second."
"With this method, a substantial amount of positronium can be produced in a wide temperature range and in a very controllable way," said David Cassidy, an assistant project scientist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who performed the research along with colleagues. "Other methods of producing positronium from surfaces require heating the samples to very high temperatures. Our method, on the other hand, works at almost any temperature – including very low temperatures."
Now, it's important to understand the implications of these two achievements, for first, the CERN accomplishment, as noted, held antihydrogen atoms for more than 15 minutes, and the second method opens the door to the remote possibility of producing anti-matter at any temperature desired. Let's stop and perform a "thought" experiment to illustrate why I got that queasy feeling in my stomach. Imagine we have a certain amount of normal, ordinary hydrogen, and an equal amount of ordinary anti-hydrogen, and we then bring those two into contact by some means.
What results is something only thus far observed in particle accelerators, when particles of anti-matter and matter are collided, and that is a total annihilation reaction, an extraordinary release of energy. Indeed, matter/anti-matter reactions are the only such reactions to do this, since the opposing spin orientation moments of the particles in each group cancel each other out (or "zero sum" to use the more technical term), and one ends up with...nothing, plus a lot of energy.
We can rest assured that the insane brains in various think tanks and agencies - DARPA (the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) comes to mind - have probably already produced their secret papers outlining the weaponization potentials these two achievements represent over the long term. To be sure, we're a long way off from that. But consider only the fact that, from the origins of quantum mechanics in the early 1900s, and more importantly, from the discovery of nuclear fission in 1938 by Meitner and Hahn, it was less than a decade before what had been a curiosity, was weaponized into the most fearsome weapon the world had yet seen, the a-bomb, and even fewer years after that that the a-bomb became but the fuse for something even more colossal, the h-bomb. The total annihilation reactions of matter and anti-matter would dwarf both of those, and be the perfect device to take care of ...well, threatening asteroids, for example. And those threatening asteroids would, in turn, be the perfect "plausible deniability" for the development of truly horrific potentials. How far are we away from such things? Who knows, but one can imagine that those secret studies which are already being written are making their projections.