In 1930, the famous English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac, deriving the relativistic equation of motion for the electron field, also obtained a solution for some other particle with the same mass and opposite, positive, electric charge. The only known particle at that time with a positive charge – a proton, could not be this double, because it differed significantly from the electron, including thousands of times more.
History of discovery
Later, in 1932, the American physicist Carl Anderson confirmed Dirac’s predictions. Studying the cosmic rays, he discovered the electron antiparticle, which today is called the positron. After 23 years, antiprotons were found on the American accelerator, and a year later – an antineutron.
Particles and antiparticles
As is known, any elementary particle has a number of characteristics, numbers, describing it. Among them are the following:
- Mass is a physical quantity that determines the gravitational interaction of an object.
- Spin is the momentum of an elementary particle.
- Electric charge is a characteristic that indicates the possibility of creating an electromagnetic field by the body, and participation in electromagnetic interaction.
- The color charge is an abstract concept that explains the interaction of quarks and the formation of other particles – hadrons.
Also other different quantum numbers that determine the properties and states of particles. If we describe the antiparticle, then in simple language it is a mirror image of a particle with the same mass and electric charge. Why are scientists so interested in particles that are just kind of similar and partly different from their originals?
It turned out that the collision of a particle and an antiparticle leads to annihilation – their destruction, and the release of the corresponding energy in the form of other high-energy particles, that is, a small explosion. Motivates to the study of antiparticles and the fact that a substance consisting of antiparticles (antimatter) is not independently formed in nature, according to observations of scientists.
General information about antimatter
Proceeding from the above, it becomes clear that the observed universe consists of matter, matter. However, following the known physical laws, scientists are sure that due to the Big Bang, matter and antimatter must be formed in an equal quantity, which we do not observe. Obviously, our ideas about the world are incomplete, and either scientists have missed something in their calculations, or somewhere outside our visibility, in the remote parts of the universe there is a corresponding amount of antimatter, so to speak, “the world from antimatter.”
This question of antisymmetry seems to be one of the most well-known unsolved physical problems.
According to modern ideas, the structure of matter and antimatter is almost not different, for the reason that the electromagnetic and strong interactions that determine the structure of matter act equally on both particles and antiparticles. This fact was confirmed in November 2015 at the RHIC collider in the US, when Russian and foreign scientists measured the strength of the interaction of antiprotons. It turned out to be equal to the strength of proton interaction.
What is antimatter? For understanding it is enough to give the following example. The simplest substance, the hydrogen atom consists of a single proton, which determines the nucleus, and an electron that rotates around it. So, antihydrogen is antimatter, the atom of which consists of an antiproton and a positron revolving around it. The production of antiparticles usually occurs when particle-antiparticle pairs are formed. If in the collision of an electron and its antiparticle – a positron, two gamma quanta are released, then a high-energy gamma quantum interacting with the electric field of the atomic nucleus will be needed to create an electron-positron pair. In the laboratory, this can occur on accelerators or in experiments with lasers. In natural conditions – in pulsars and near black holes, as well as in the interaction of cosmic rays with certain types of matter.
(General view of the ASACUSA installation at CERN intended for obtaining and studying antihydrogen)
Despite the simple formulation, it is rather difficult to synthesize the antihydrogen. And yet in 1995, at the LEAR accelerator at CERN, scientists managed to create 9 atoms of such antimatter, which lived only 40 nanoseconds and disintegrated.+
0.28 attogramm (10 – Later, a magnetic trap, which is kept 38 Antihydrogen atoms within 172 milliseconds (0.172 seconds), and after 170 thousand atoms Antihydrogen was created using massive devices -18 gram). Such a volume of antimatter can be sufficient for further study, and this is a success
The cost of antimatter
Today we can confidently say that the most expensive substance in the world is not California, regolith or graphene, and, of course, not gold, but antimatter. According to NASA estimates, the creation of one milligram of positrons will cost about 25 million dollars, and 1 g of anti-hydrogen is estimated at 62.5 trillion dollars. Interestingly, the nanogram of antimatter, the volume that was used for 10 years in CERN’s experiments, cost the organization hundreds of millions of dollars.
The study of antimatter carries in itself a potential for humanity. The first and most interesting device, theoretically working on antimatter, is the warp engine. Some can remember one of the famous series “Star Trek” (“Star Trek”), the engine was powered by a reactor, which operates on the basis of the principle of annihilation of matter and antimatter.
In fact, there are several mathematical models of such an engine, and according to their calculations, few future antiparticles will be needed for the spacecraft of the future. Thus, a seven-month flight to Mars can be reduced in duration to a month, due to 140 nanograms of antiprotons, which will act as a catalyst for nuclear fission in the ship’s reactor. Thanks to such technologies, intergalactic flights can also be realized, which will allow a person to study in detail other star systems, and in the future to colonize them.
However, antimatter, like many other scientific discoveries, can pose a threat to humanity. As is known, the most terrible catastrophe, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was carried out with the help of two atomic bombs, the total mass of which is 8.6 tons, and the power is about 35 kilotons. But in the collision of 1 kg of substance and 1 kg of antimatter, an energy equal to 42 960 kilotons is released. The most powerful bomb ever devised by mankind – AN602 or the “Tsar Bomb” released energy of about 58,000 kilotons, but weighed 26.5 tons! Summarizing all of the above, we can say with confidence that technology and inventions based on antimatter can lead humanity, both to an unprecedented breakthrough, and to complete self-destruction.
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