November 18, 2010
CERN Scientists Build Anti-Matter Container

A warp core breach due to failure of the anti-matter containment field suddenly starts to look possible.

A clearer understanding of the Universe, its origins and maybe even its destiny is a significant step closer, thanks to new research.

As part of a major international experiment called ALPHA*, based at CERN in Switzerland, researchers have helped to achieve trapping and holding atoms of 'anti-hydrogen', which has not previously been possible.

The project involves physicists at Swansea University led by Professor Mike Charlton, Dr Niels Madsen and Dr Dirk Peter van der Werf and the University of Liverpool under Professor Paul Nolan, all supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

This breakthrough will make it possible to study 'anti-matter' closely for the first time, and so develop unprecedented insight into its composition/structure and improve understanding of the fundamental physical principles that underpin the Universe and the way it works.

Anti-matter propulsion for Mars colonists?

The way I see it there's no point in using anti-matter propulsion to move between stars until we master rejuvenation technologies, miniaturize the technologies, and develop the ability to hibernate. But terraforming robots should be sent decades in advance to prepare a planet for colonist arrival.

CERN researchers are also looking for parallel universes. So when we burst into these parallel universes we'll be able to defend ourselves with anti-matter weapons.

And as their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva moves into high gear, they are talking increasingly of the "New Physics" on the horizon that could totally change current views of the universe and how it works.

"Parallel universes, unknown forms of matter, extra dimensions... These are not the stuff of cheap science fiction but very concrete physics theories that scientists are trying to confirm with the LHC and other experiments.

Is there such a large infinity of parallel universes that some have parallel Earths with similar histories? If so, what's different?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 November 18 10:13 PM  Space Colonization

Wolf-Dog said at November 18, 2010 11:34 PM:

First of all, the cost of using anti-matter for space travel might be prohibitive because, if it is true that the only way to make anti-matter, is to collide regular matter particles at very high speeds, then it turns out that only a small fraction of the colliding matter particles would turn into anti-matter particles:

However, it is claimed that it might be possible to use magnetic "scoops" to collect the naturally occurring anti-matter in the Van Allen Belt, and even the belts in planets such as that of Jupiter. IF this can be done as claimed, then it would dramatically reduce the cost of obtaining anti-matter. It is well known that anti-matter can be stored in suspension by magnets, but at high concentrations, the amount of magnetic force that is needed would be prohibitive.

In any case, nuclear reactions such a fusion or fission actually create enough energy that is a small but significant percentage of the total energy (E = m*c^2) of the matter, which is huge. For example, it is known that the biggest hydrogen bomb detonated in the Soviet Union was equivalent to 50 megatons of TNT, which in turn is equivalent to annihilating 1 kg of matter with 1 kg of antimatter, so that in that explosion at least 1 kg of matter really disappeared. In fact, in comparison to fission reactions the perfect energy conversion by means of anti-matter is ONLY by 1,0000 times more efficient than fission (i.e. as much as 0.01 % of the fission fuel actually gets converted to energy and so 0.01 % of its weight actually disappears in fission reaction!). And in a fusion reaction as much as 1 % of the weight actually gets converted to energy and disappears. So space travel by means of nuclear reactors makes a lot of sense.

Wolf-Dog said at November 18, 2010 11:38 PM:

I made a typographical error. Fission is 4 orders of magnitude less efficient of antimatter annihilation, and fusion is 2 orders of magnitudes less efficient, but still a significant percentage of the absolute optimal energy conversion.

Chris T said at November 19, 2010 9:52 AM:

I imagine that if we ever figure out how to economically make and store large quantities of anti-matter, any such production would be done off world. A containment failure would be catastrophic to say the least.

TheBigHenry said at November 19, 2010 2:18 PM:

Containment failure would be catastrophic only if most of the annihilation occurred in a relatively brief time interval. The timing is crucial to effect explosive release of the annihilation energy.

In any case, CERN can make several hundred atoms of anti-hydrogen per second. To make a gram of it (i.e., 6 x 10^23 atoms) at that rate would take longer than the universe has existed.

Paul D. said at November 21, 2010 8:44 AM:

Fission is 4 orders of magnitude less efficient of antimatter annihilation, and fusion is 2 orders of magnitudes less efficient,

This is nonsense. Fission rockets can convert the energy of the fission reaction into kinetic energy of the exhaust with quite reasonable efficiency. There is no room for anything to be "4 orders of magnitude" more efficient.

Perhaps you are confusing some other figure of merit for "efficiency".

philw1776 said at November 22, 2010 9:02 AM:

Fission, which we were able to harness into rockets way back in the 1960s when NASA was running a space program, not a congressional district jobs program, supplies plenty of energy for interplanetary travel. Sure fusion is a couple powers of ten better but the slight detail of us not knowing how to make fusion reactors complicates this solution. Sadly, the Luddite view of anything nuclear prevents use of fission reactors powering VASIMIR rockets for efficient interplanetary travel. Oh, and the fact that NASA is busy with Musilim outreach these days instead of new propulsion like VASIMIR.

morpheus said at November 23, 2010 7:20 AM:

now this again is a fake hyped up news for those

who have no sciense backraoud nor do they falow scientific advancements

antimatter containers used in particle acelerators have been aorund for at least 30 years

withouth going into the deep black projects

so u posting somenthing as news that has been done aoround the world for the last 30 years

like its something new is prety patetic

it just hapend that cern during they busy shedule reached this point also

randall pls there many more intresting topics then 30 years old stories

Brett Bellmore said at November 23, 2010 5:14 PM:

The difference is between storing neutral atoms of antimatter, and storing anti-protons in a Penning trap. The former is much more difficult, but essential to ever using antimatter as a fuel. You could never store enough antimatter to use for interstellar fuel without making it into anti-hydrogen, and condensing it into a cryogenic solid. Penning traps are utterly impractical for storing mass qualities of antimatter.

That there are significant scientific questions concerning the actual, as opposed to theoretical, properties of antimatter, which can't be answered so long as you're dealing with charged particles, is not incidental, either.

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