There's an important story coming out of the Brookhaven National Laboratory about the latest discovery in the creation of antimatter that was spotted and shared by T.M. "Well, so what?" some might be inclined to say. "We've been creating anti-matter for quite a while."
True that, but there's always the implied question: Why are we, or rather, the government, trying to create antimatter?
Most readers of this website will already know the answer: matter-antimatter reactions are total annihilation reactions. Collect enough of the stuff together, and slam it into some ordinary matter, and one would have a potential for a bomb that would make the Soviet Union's gigantic Tsar bomba hydrogen bomb test look like a firecracker. If that's not enough to bake your noodle, just imagine creating enough anti-matter that one could make an anti-hydrogen fusion reactor, and then suddenly turning off the containment... you get the idea.
That, indeed, is the problem: simply stated, how does one create enough of the stuff, and then, contain it for a long period of time? And what does mapping the technology tree to do so look like? What are its significant effects?
Well, this article is very intriguing, at least for me, not because of its lengthy descriptions of the new experiment, nor even about its descriptions of the successful creation of antimatter by a novel method. There is rather, a couple of statements in it that really gave me that faint, sickly feeling in my stomach, and that dry, throat constricting sensation. Here's the article:
After the now customary and obligatory bows before the altar of Einstein, the article goes on to describe in some detail what has been accomplished in this new experiment:
Albert Einstein’s famously elegant E=mc2 equation taught the world about the direct relationship between energy and matter. That theory is proven daily by the power generation mechanism operating within our Sun, a conversion of matter directly into energy through the process of nuclear fusion.
Now, a team of scientists working at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science facility used for nuclear physics research at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, have reversed that process, turning light into matter and its counterpart antimatter, and all in one step.
Explaining how their experiment would work, Xu first clarified the process behind the theory and why the ions passing close enough to each other should create this physical matter. “We have two clouds of photons moving in opposite directions with enough energy and intensity that when the two ions graze past each other without colliding, those photon fields can interact.”
This interaction between the proton clouds surrounding the ions, he says, is exactly what occurred during their tests. The STAR detector found that those “matter from light” particles, as well as their antimatter counterparts, were indeed produced after the magnetic fields had “grazed” each other.
So far, so good. But this raised some serious "intuitions" in my mind, and I had to read to the end of the article to find those intuitions more or less confirmed, and that's when my increasingly dry and constricted throat demanded I swallow:
The RHIC team concedes that they were not technically the first to prove Einstein right in their written conclusion. But, they say, the lone previous success, a 1997 experiment performed at the SLAC National Accelerator, involved numerous steps with different high-energy lasers, making it impractical. Their process, they note again, is accomplished in one step, making it a significantly more viable option, as well as irrefutable confirmation of those twentieth-century visionaries.
“Our results provide clear evidence of direct, one-step creation of matter-antimatter pairs from collisions of light as originally predicted by Breit and Wheeler,” Brandenburg concluded. (Boldface emphasis added)
In other words, in any working out of the technology tree for the creation of antimatter in quantities for practical use, one will find the following general and very basic points: (1) how to create enough (2) how to make any process for doing so more efficient (and thereby to enhance production) and (3) how to contain it?
In other words, the experiment has dealt with point number 2, making the process of production more efficient. Of course, in one sense, this experiment is a far cry from the wild speculation I indulged in at the beginning of this blog, of anti-hydrogen fusion reactors whose containment is suddenly turned off. On the other hand, however, it is a significant step when compared with previous methods; a few steps have been reduced to one.
And rest assured, if you and I can think of these wild speculations and basic technology tree "bellwethers", so can the folks at the Diabolically Apocalyptic Research Projects agency, you know, those wonderful folks who dream up wild projects like hafnium isomer bombs, and then draw up detailed technology trees to achieve the results. Fortunately, the hafnium isomer idea turned out to be a dud... but so what?
Anti-matter containment for "practical use" would have far more benefits and far more chances of success. Who knows? Perhaps some DARPA cog just thought of what I just thought of: anti-matter fusion reactors, Philo Farnsworths plasmator and fusor patents, small-sized fusion reactors, sudden lose of containment, and delivery systems... hhhmmmm...
And another significant step has just been taken.
See you on the flip side...