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September 18, 2002
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Fire up that warp drive. In this week's issue of Nature, physicists claim to have made 50,000 atoms of antihydrogen. Not only is this a lot more antihydrogen than has been produced before, the stuff is cold -- read slow-moving -- so it's possible that physicists will finally be able to trap it and study it. (Less technical news story here.)
posted by ptermit (26 comments total)

 
Apologies if this is too /.-ish, but it just appealed to the geek in me. Which is, um, pretty much all of me.
posted by ptermit at 1:59 PM on September 18, 2002


Really, really neat. Thanks.
posted by interrobang at 2:15 PM on September 18, 2002


* Wonders what size bomb you could make out of that.
posted by Freaky at 2:16 PM on September 18, 2002


anti-bomb, you mean.
posted by quonsar at 2:20 PM on September 18, 2002


* I dunno, but I'd hazard that a good guess would be "too big". Glad that Osama doesn't have access to a big particle accelerator.
posted by SpecialK at 2:22 PM on September 18, 2002


So, if one were to set off an antibomb, would people rise from the dead and long-razed buildings suddenly spring from the earth to thrust phallicly skyward?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:27 PM on September 18, 2002


Right, Crash, like Superman reversing Earth's orbit.
posted by mikrophon at 2:29 PM on September 18, 2002


no, people would thrust phallically from the dead and long-razed buildings would suddenly spring from the earth to rise skyward...
posted by quonsar at 2:30 PM on September 18, 2002


What kind of bomb you could make out of 50,000 atoms of antihydrogen? Um, not that big: the annihilation of 50,000 atoms of antihydrogen and 50,000 hydrogen atoms would produce (scribble scribble) 0.000015 joules. By way of comparison, a 60-watt lightbulb uses 4 million times as much energy every second.

(E=mc^2, and c^2 is very big, but m is very very very small.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:31 PM on September 18, 2002


If you think I'm going to dispute figures from DevilsAdvocate, you've got another think coming.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:32 PM on September 18, 2002


CERN -- where this took place -- also has a great Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Antimatter site. (But were afraid to ask.) Among other things, they point out that antimatter weapons and vehicles are impractical (no way to store the antimatter, certainly none that is portable) and horrendously expensive (hundreds of millions of Swiss francs, all to produce less than a billionth of a gram of antimatter in a year).

According to this conversion table, you would need 42g of antimatter to produce energy yield equivalent of 1 megaton of TNT. A 20th of a gram, perhaps, might produce a 1Kt yield weapon, roughly equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb. So if they run their accelerator for 500,000 years ... watch out!
posted by dhartung at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2002


If I rub speedstick anti-perspirant all over myself will I be immune to the effects of anti-matter?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:35 PM on September 18, 2002


DevilsAdvocate, yup, that's about what I thought.

I'm sure if you *did* make a weapon out of it, though, it'd look quite impressive with all that confinement equipment, even if it did have a yield of about 0.000000000000000000005037Mt :)
posted by Freaky at 2:49 PM on September 18, 2002


Interesting that our first reaction to the production of antimatter is how it might be used as an explosive. Symptomatic of the age we live in, or the result of too many "warp drive breaches" seen on Star Trek?

Upon consideration, perhaps the two are one in the same . . .
posted by aladfar at 2:50 PM on September 18, 2002


no anti-hydrogen bombs you say?

you could always bulid a rail gun
posted by kileregreen at 2:57 PM on September 18, 2002


A 20th of a gram, perhaps, might produce a 1Kt yield weapon, roughly equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb.

Actually, the yield of the Hiroshima bomb was in the range of 12 to 18 kilotons. That's not really that important (only one order of magnitude) compared to:

all to produce less than a billionth of a gram of antimatter in a year

Well, yes, less than. Try one sextillionth of a gram, or one trillionth of billionth of a gram.
posted by quarantine at 3:02 PM on September 18, 2002


"Interesting that our first reaction to the production of antimatter is how it might be used as an explosive. Symptomatic of the age we live in, or the result of too many "warp drive breaches" seen on Star Trek?"

I was under the (probably mistaken) impression that antimatter and matter combined would always result in some cataclysmic event, a'la Tunguska 1908. It wasn't that I was thinking how it might be used as an explosive, it was that I was thinking an explosion was the inevitable result.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:07 PM on September 18, 2002


Zachsmind: It might sound like a good idea right now, but think of what happens if you ever run into a person wearing perspirant.... *foom*
posted by ptermit at 3:08 PM on September 18, 2002


didn't superman reverse the earth's rotation? although, perhaps we were to assume the orbit was reversing as well...

i always miss the threads that i'd most enjoy participating in. why is that?
posted by folktrash at 4:52 PM on September 18, 2002


Damn...
A friend of mine is working on a competing project (as in, they're in the same building at CERN and also trying to produce anti-hydrogen)...shame they got beat out. He gave me a tour of their building a few months ago (besides ATHENA, and ATRAP, which is his project, there's a Japanese team called ARACUSA doing even more unholy things to matter, like making atoms with a proton nucleus orbited by an antiproton...).
Anyway, in response to all the matter-antimatter-bomb posts, I'd like to reiterate the original poster's point that the idea behind the experiment is to see if measurements of anti-hydrogen correspond to theoretical predictions about it...Sure, for all I know, the funding is coming from some people in the Pentagon who are hoping to be able to blow up even *more* stuff in the future...but for now, can we appreciate this rather impressive scientific achievement?
posted by uosuaq at 5:16 PM on September 18, 2002


Railguns shmailguns! I want a HERF gun!!!

Now back to this topic; whatever happened to making mini-blackholes?
posted by titboy at 5:19 PM on September 18, 2002


"..about 0.000000000000000000005037Mt "

Does anyone else find it funny that he said "about" and then went to twenty four decimal places?
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 10:31 PM on September 18, 2002


Those twenty-four zeroes look impressive, really, they do, but if you're going to be scientific about it, just write in multiples of ten, that's easier.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 11:14 PM on September 18, 2002


Those twenty-four zeroes look impressive
There are 20 zero's, and I said "about" because the calculation was done using floats, and hence not entirely accurate, especially since I dropped the last 5 decimal points :)
posted by Freaky at 4:17 AM on September 19, 2002


crash: the mutual annihilation of matter and antimatter always results in a release of energy. The amount of energy released is proportional to the mass annihilated, so whether the result is "cataclysmic" or not depends on how much mass is involved in the first place.

The energy released (E) and mass consumed (m) are related by Einstein's equation E=mc^2. Now, c is the speed of light in a vacuum, which is very large, so a relatively small amount of antimatter results in a "cataclysmic" explosion. A golf ball of antimatter would produce an explosion large enough to destroy an entire city. But the mass created in this experiment is many many orders of magnitude smaller than the golf ball, and the energy released when it comes into contact with matter is proportionately smaller.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:02 AM on September 19, 2002


even more unholy things to matter, like making atoms with a proton nucleus orbited by an antiproton...

As little as I know about particle physics, that just plain sounds cool. Is it an atom at that point, though? Could they get that proton/anti-proton coupling to take on an electron and anti-electron and become an atom of - uh - seriously mixed up meta-helium?
posted by wanderingmind at 12:59 PM on September 19, 2002


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