Friday, November 19, 2010

Researchers capture sample of antimatter

Not much, but it's a start:

A team of scientists, including University of Calgary researchers, has captured antimatter for the first time.

The feat, which trapped 38 atoms for 1/10th of a second, is being touted as a major milestone that will test the foundations of physics, said one of the U of C scientists involved with the international project.

"We're definitely not stopping here," said Rob Thompson, the U of C's head of physics and astronomy.

"This is a huge milestone to actually achieve doing this, but it's just the first step into this massive new area we're moving into in terms of possible experiments."

The discovery was made at the world's largest particle physics lab located at CERN -- the European Organization for Nuclear Research -- in Geneva, Switzerland.

Two teams, including a Harvard-led group and a collaboration called ALPHA, which includes the Canadian researchers, are conducting experiments to understand antimatter.

Antimatter has long been regarded as mysterious -- sometimes looked at as the "evil twin" of matter since the two annihilate upon contact, leaving behind pure energy.

It's also a staple of science fiction, used, for example, to fuel Star Trek's starship Enterprise through the galaxy.

From the Calgary Herald. In fact the Star Trek reference might not be out of line; Charles Pellegrino and Jim Powell have been suggesting for years that this might be the key to interstellar travel. They even have a design -- the Valkyrie rocket -- which should theoretically be capable of reaching 92% of the speed of light (enough for relativistic time dilation to be significant). Incidentally, the starships in Avatar are based on this design (Pellegrino was a consultant for that film).

No comments: