Curiosities of Antimatter

Honors Chemistry Research Project by Charlie Freund and Nick Morris

In this day and age we are gaining knowledge faster than ever. We can understand some of the most complex things in this universe, yet can't get a firm answer to many other simple questions. The developing research on the topic of antimatter opens up more questions which we will try answer... like how many anti-hydrogen atoms can fit in the back of a Ford Pinto? or what happens when anti-matter is mixed with 2 oz. of dry Vermouth, sour mix, and served over the rocks? or why is it that there is a definite lack of existing antimatter in the universe when basic physics leads us to the conclusion that there should be equal amounts of matter and antimatter...?

in perspective...

Antimatter is thought to be the exact same as regular matter, only the charges of the particles are the opposite of what one would expect to find.  For example, normal electrons have a negative charge, but antimatter electrons have a positive charge and are known as positrons.  The likewise is true for protons which would have a negative charge, and neutrons which remain neutral. When we combine an anti-particle with any other normal particle, the two release a tremondous amount of energy. This energy is the production of two extremely high energy gamma photons. One kilogram of antimatter could be used to create a 43 megaton explosion, which is larger than several thousand nuclear bombs. It has been the science fiction dream to harness this energy for space travel in place of nuclear or fossil fuel power. A speck of antimatter weighing one milligram would, in combonation with one milligram of matter, deliver more energy than two tons of rocket fuel. But, even if we produce anti-protons at five times our current rate (Fermilab's goal in the next five years) and were able to store them, it would still take 200,000 years to make that one milligram of antimatter.

the principles...

Former theory states that all properties of antimatter were exactly the same, though opposite, as normal matter. For example, the spectroscopy of hydrogen and anti-hydrogen should be the same. However, in recent years, research has shown that such is not always the case.  Scientists are currently working on experiments dealing with Charge-Parity (CP) violation, which when understood should help us to understand the differences between matter and antimatter.

CP violation is the error in the combined laws associated with charge conjugation (C) and parity (P). Charge conjugation implies that every charged particle has an oppositely charged antimatter counterpart. Parity, also called space inversion, is a reflection in the origin of the space coordinates of a particle. For example, the three space dimensions x, y, and z become -x, -y, and -z for the antiparticle. The laws of charge conjugation and parity are part of the CPT theorem, where the T is for time. As charge and parity must be reversed, time should be as well. However, this doesn't necessarily mean time moving back, but the motions of going forward would be reversed. The CPT theorem is what assumed you could not tell the difference between matter and antimatter. To illustrate, we take a particle, replace it with its antiparticle, look at it in a mirror, and reverse the direction in time. This mirror doesn't simply reflect right and left as backwards, but up and down and near and far as well. Applied to any particle interaction, this recipe should produce a  result indistinguishable from the original. This idea is the key to understanding the Universe's absent antimatter and the CPT theorem. To better understand this, it helps to think of the works of Escher. In Figure 1, we see his painting of white geese flying, with similar black geese filling the voids. Now if we take look at this in a mirror, we see Figure 2 with the geese flying in reverse directions. Consider this the change in parity. If we take the negative of this, to represent switching the charge, we get Figure 3, which is indistinguishible from Figure 1. Except there is one flaw and minor difference that allows us to tell the difference (besides the difference of color shading).

Figure 1                                         Figure 2                                         Figure 3
can you believe he made his living off this?...........looks like rush the words of a great man: you can be my baby, doesn't matter if you're black or white

The difference, if you haven't found it yet, is the tails point differently between Figure 1 and 3. We can think of this as the minor difference that occurs between matter and antimatter that has recently been proven.

With research concretely proving the charge and parity portions of the CPT theorem false, we have issues to sort out. This theorem is a fundamental basis in physics. Scientists will now have a great deal to explain about how CP violation exists. More importantly to us, who don't have to figure out the principles of physics again, is how this applies to the creation of our universe.  If we assume that every matter has it's own antimatter counterpart, we have to ask.... Where has the Antimatter Gone?

or maybe you just want to know...

Research Being Done on Antimatter

or prossibly where you can find some good...

Links and References

for some clarificaitons on difficult to comprehend words...


Contact: Charlie Freund  or Nick Morris
 Michigan State University | MSU Chemistry DepartmentProfessor Marcos Dantus