Paging Dan Brown…

…or not, as the case may be.

But still – antimatter! Antimatter!

Actually, being slightly more serious, anti-protons and positrons (= anti-electrons) are not as rare as you might think, based on some media articles. Cosmic ray showers make a certain amount of anti-particles all the time. Supernovae spit them out, along with a lot of other stuff. And anti-atoms have been ‘manufactured’ before. The difficulty is getting them to sit still, and isolating them sufficiently from normal matter.

Of course, presumably, there must be a way to do it. The universe we live in is spectacularly, overwhelmingly weighted toward ‘matter-matter’ (if you will) rather than anti-matter. And yet, on the face of it, there’s no obvious reason why that should be. Physics doesn’t really seem to be that picky between the two, barring the decay of the K-meson (if I’ve remembered that correctly). After all, antimatter has the same mass, the same inertia and the same magnitude of charge as normal matter, it’s just that the signs are reversed. (Particle people will no doubt be going, ” ‘Just’, he says. Harrumph.” And they have a point. It’s an important difference.)

The odd thing is, as far as I know, still no-one really knows why we had an excess of matter over antimatter in our universe. There clearly was an excess, since the atoms in our bodies weren’t annihilated within a picosecond or two of the Big Bang, but the why of it remains speculative. Possibly the matter/anti symmetry breaks down at extremely high energies? Or quantum tunneling is somehow more favourable to ‘our’ sort of matter, so when the quarks stick together, they tend to gloop into ‘our’ configuration? I really don’t know.

And nor does it seem that anyone else does, either.

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