Roundup At The Antimatter Corral

You know, I’m all for the advancement of physics research, but there’s a reason antimatter doesn’t exist in nature. It annihilates an equal amount of matter on contact and releases incredible amounts of energy.

Antimatter held for questioning

For physicists, a bit of antimatter is a precious gift indeed. By comparing matter to its counterpart, they can test fundamental symmetries that lie at the heart of the standard model of particle physics, and look for hints of new physics beyond. Yet few gifts are as tricky to wrap. Bring a particle of antimatter into contact with its matter counterpart and the two annihilate in a flash of energy.

Now a research collaboration at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland, has managed, 38 times, to confine single antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic trap for more than 170 milliseconds. The group reported the result in Nature online on 17 November1. “We’re ecstatic. This is five years of hard work,” says Jeffrey Hangst, spokesman for the ALPHA collaboration at CERN.

An antihydrogen atom is made from a negatively charged antiproton and a positively charged positron, the antimatter counterpart of the electron. The objective — both for ALPHA and for a competing CERN experiment called ATRAP — is to compare the energy levels in antihydrogen with those of hydrogen, to confirm that antimatter particles experience the same electromagnetic forces as matter particles, a key premise of the standard model. “The goal is to study antihydrogen and you can’t do it without trapping it,” says Cliff Surko, an antimatter researcher at the University of California, San Diego. “This is really a big deal.”

See also:
Scientists briefly trap a form of antimatter
Upping the Anti: CERN Physicists Trap Antimatter Atoms for the First Time
Antihydrogen trapped at CERN
Snagging Antimatter Atoms
Antimatter created, captured for the first time
Gotcha!
Breakthrough! Scientists Create and Capture Antimatter
‘Antimatter’ captured by CERN scientists in dramatic physics breakthrough
Anti-matter is finally trapped for an instant
Antimatter Trapped For the First Time
Antimatter atom trapped for first time, say scientists
Antimatter atoms caught at last
Scientists Hold Antimatter Captive — For Milliseconds
ALPHA – Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus
ATRAP – Antihydrogen TRAP
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
CERN

So far, they’re only dealing with 38 atoms and let’s hope the scale of the research stays small. However, if they can trap and hold a tiny amount of antimatter, eventually the technology could be developed to trap and hold larger quantities and then we could be in trouble if the technology ever fell into the hands of bad actors.

The reaction of 1 kg of antimatter with 1 kg of matter would produce 1.8×1017 J (180 petajoules) of energy (by the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc²), or the rough equivalent of 43 megatons of TNT. For comparison, Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, reacted an estimated yield of 50 megatons, which required the use of hundreds of kilograms of fissile material (Uranium/Plutonium).

/of course, there’s probably nothing to worry about, but still, they’re not playing with Tinkertoys here

Most Powerful Particle Collisions Yet

Large Hadron Collider smashes protons, record

The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva succeeded early Tuesday in colliding subatomic particles at three times the highest energy levels previously recorded.

Scientists gathered in a room at Caltech and in similar groups around the globe witnessed the achievement at 3:58 PDT.

“There were cheers in all the control rooms,” said Caltech physicist Harvey Newman. “As soon as we get the data, we’re analyzing it. … It’s been a long time coming.”

Researchers were waiting for the promised flood of data that would come as protons from two particle beams from the 17-mile-circumference collider smashed into each other.

Several experiments using the particle accelerator could help test for smaller particles, dark matter, other dimensions, supersymmetry and other theories in particle physics, researchers said.

“We’re pretty happy because we’ve been waiting all night,” said Andy Yen, 21, a senior who had worked on experiments related to the collider for most of his undergraduate career. “Some people have been waiting 15, 20 years. it’s late, but it’s worth it.”

Earlier that night, two previous attempts to ramp up the accelerator had been cut short, and the researchers, who at peak attendance numbered two-dozen-plus, were running low on pizza and energy. The buzz of conversation between professors and doctoral candidates died down each time the two beams were spun in preparation for the planned collision.

See also:
Cern LHC sees high-energy success
LHC experiments run at highest energy level yet
LHC Turns on, Powers up to Record-Shattering 7 TeV Collision
LHC achieves record collisions, starts gathering data
Large Hadron Collider Finally Smashing Properly
Large Hadron Collider a smashing success: Don’t panic!
Large Hadron Collider – Live!
Watch the Large Hadron Collider Experiments Live

/well, we’re all still here, no earth-engulfing black holes were created, and that’s a good thing

Get Your Physics Fun While It Lasts

They just restarted the LHC about a week ago and now they’re already announcing it needs to be shut down again. I bet that right about now they wish the could return it and get their $5 billion back. What a gigantic boondoggle. As I’ve said before, they should have had the Germans build it in the first place.

LHC to shut down for a year to address design faults

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) must close at the end of 2011 for up to a year to address design issues, according to an LHC director.

Dr Steve Myers told BBC News the faults will delay the machine reaching its full potential for two years.

The atom smasher will reach world record collision energies later this month at 7 trillion electron volts.

But joints between the machine’s magnets must be strengthened before higher-energy collisions can commence.

The Geneva-based machine only recently restarted after being out of action for 14 months following an accident in September 2008.

Dr Myers said: “It’s something that, with a lot more resources and with a lot more manpower and quality control, possibly could have been avoided but I have difficulty in thinking that this is something that was a design error.”

He said: “The standard phrase is that the LHC is its own prototype. We are pushing technologies towards their limits.”

“You don’t hear about the thousands or hundreds of thousands of other areas that have gone incredibly well.

“With a machine like the LHC, you only build one and you only build it once.”

He said the second problem is not with the most complex technology but involves the copper sheaths around the superconducting joints in the tunnel.

The copper sheaths are a failsafe mechanism designed to take up the current if one of the magnets in the Large Hadron Collider warms up – an incident known as a “quench”.

The 2008 accident caused one tonne of helium to leak into the tunnel and resulted in a series of “quenches” and a 40m Swiss franc (£24m) repair bill.

Engineers believe the machine is now safe to run at 7 trillion electron volts (TeV) but are anxious to avoid another breakdown.

So they have taken the decision to run the machine for 18 to 24 months at half-maximum power before switching it off for a year to carry out improvements to the 27km tunnel.

Dr Myers said the decision was taken jointly with the physicists working on the four giant particle detectors on the LHC.

He said they appreciate the chance to test their own equipment while the machine is running at half its maximum power.

See also:
Large Hadron Collider to close for a year for refit and repairs
Large Hadron Collider ‘to shut down for a year’
Hadron Collider to be closed amid fears of a very big bang
CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, world’s largest atom-smasher, needs to be shut down for repairs
Large Hadron Collider will finally reach full power in 2013… eight years behind schedule
Collider to shut down at end of 2011
Large Hadron Collider shutdown planned
Large Hadron Collider to shut down, not baguette this time
Scientists rubbish stories about LHC shutdown over safety concerns
Woman, fearing apocalypse, tries to halt collider
Woman fails to shut down Large Hadron Collider
Here We Go Again

As they say, measure twice, cut once.

/on the bright side, at least while it’s shut down again, they won’t have to pay the ridiculously high electric bill for all the vast amounts of power that the LHC sucks down while in operation