Score another victory in science’s relentless pursuit to make all things Star Trek a reality. To the list that already includes universal translators, voice-activated computers, and–sort of–replicators, we now get to add antimatter containment pods. Scientists at CERN have rigged a container to trap anti-matter for more than 16 minutes. It may be a while before they’re used to store energy for antimatter fuel cells, but these ingenious containers are expected to allow particle physicists to go where no particle physicists have gone before.
To begin with, in case you were wondering: yes, antimatter is real. As one of the wonderful examples of where a discovery is worked out on paper before it’s actually observed, English physicist and quantum mechanics giant Paul Dirac predicted antimatter while working out a mathematical model of the subatomic world. Four years later the American physicist Carl Anderson observed such a particle: an electron with the same mass as normal electrons, but with a positive charge. And electrons weren’t unique in having evil twin brothers. Physicists soon concluded that every particle of matter has its own antiparticle with the same mass but opposite charge. In 1955 the both the antineutron and antiproton were discovered.
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