Creating Antimatter: Matter's 'Evil Twin'
Antimatter. I'm so excited to talk to you about antimatter and emily. I know exactly what you're thinking. Anti-matter pods are rigged to blow up the moment we star Trek Right. I mean antivirus. A huge part of Star Trek. All right I know. The Vulcan Salute. Live long and prosper. That's about the extent of my knowledge of Star Trek. But I get your point. Antimatter does kind of sound like science fiction. But it's Real. That's the cool thing. Yes antimatter particles. Are these strange mirror particles to the stuff we see all around us and scientists have made it using a giant particle accelerator in Europe. They're studying it because they hope it can answer some fundamental questions about the universe. Okay not entirely sure I get it but by the end of the episode I assume we all will so today on the show anti-battery what it is how it works and why one scientist has spent decades trying to trap it. Jeff. I have a lot of questions about antimatter. But can you just start with regular matter? What is that? Yeah so a Refresher Viseu. Don't remember regular matter. It's a broad category for everything. So you're madder I matter the studios matter the I I get it matter matter matter. It's a nice thought. Yeah and as matter. We're all made of atoms. So you're a bunch of Adamson the shape of an emily corn on the shape of a Jeff Brumfield now for antimatter. I'm actually going to let another Jeffrey. Who knows a lot more physics? Naidoo answer this one. His name is Jeffrey Angst. And he's a researcher at our House University in Denmark and to Madeira. I think it is kind of an evil twin of the stuff that makes up our everyday world intriguing. Go on it is it is. It's just this kind of opposite matter. It's like this mirror to everything that's around us so antimatter. It's here right now. Yeah I mean it's a little more complicated than that but anti matters real stuff and it exists in our universe and actually before anyone ever even detected it. They predicted it because math. The equations of physics demanded in fact was discovered that way. You know by coming up with a an equation that predicted existence. But nobody was really looking forward and I am not going to attempt to describe the fundamental equations physics on this podcast because I don't really understand them But Hank says the closest analogy. He's got for US mortals to think about. Is this math problem. What's the square root of four two very good? But there's a second solution negative to Aoki because negative negative to four so the way you just went straight to. That's exactly kind of what happened in physics like there were these equations and there was a positive set of solutions for particles and negative side and everyone was like the negative set. What does that even mean? That's nonsense but it turned out there. Were these negative particles. They did exist and they're called antimatter. Oh okay so there's this theoretical idea of antimatter kicking around for awhile. Which kind of explains what it is. But what is it exactly? Here's the thing. It really is opposite matters. So protons do you remember protons. Yeah their positively charged subatomic particles. They are anti. Protons are negatively charged electrons their charged and their anti particles are positively charged. Hey this is kind of amazing. It is kind of amazing. And here's the best part actually lives up to the SCIFI analogy. So just go with your vestigial Sifi brain and I get it emily. You're more of like Colin Firth. Pride and prejudice. Bbc D. You know no shame in it. There isn't there isn't I've seen it probably more times than you have in my life but what do you think happens when matter? Antimatter get when they actually meet okay. If antimatter is the evil twin they fight they dual. They do lake in Jane austen novel. They do well. You're not too far off. I'm going to let the actual experts explain it to you. My her Antimatter tendency to. Cancel each other out. Where's this under certain conditions when to identify articles of matter? Antimatter meet these experts. Jeff Captain Kirk and is that Leonard Nimoy as relationship. Yes total complete absolute annihilation as stock. It is that's right and you're right that Star Trek season one episode twenty seven original track the best track. But here's the thing heavily. It's actually a hundred percent accurate or close. The Universe won't end if antimatter and matter meat. But the two particles disappear in a flash of light. The anti-matter can't exist in the presence of matter. That's where the science fiction stuff comes in. These things really do annihilate each other if you get them together okay. So I've covered a lot of physics over the years and this is pretty much the only case where the sci-fi and the reality match although I will say annihilation is actually a lot less sexy in real life. It's really just annoying to have to deal with something that you have to make and that the universe is trying to destroy and every every every turning point that's hard to be an antimatter physicist I it is. I mean he's literally been doing this since the ninety s and like he does get a little frustrated. All right you said earlier that antimatter. It's here in this universe but this universe is full of matter. I don't see any antimatter lurking around. So where is it if it's exists in theory but it's hard to find in reality. I don't get this you know who else doesn't get it. Every physicist on earth like this is one of the fundamental questions the equation say there should be as much anti matters. There's matter but in practice. Antimatter is actually super hard to find and Hank says nobody knows why there aren't any good ideas about this. I mean physicist. Ducey little. Bits of antimatter here and there. In fact anti electrons I discovered in cosmic rays coming from deep space way back in the nineteen thirties. And actually I've got another natural source of antimatter. Right here in the studio emily in this room. Yes ready yes. Data this banana. What are you talking about? Is this a real episode? This is an episode. About nothing and Tomfoolery. Mom Can I hold the banana to make sure it's real Alex Lane? Yes okay so obviously. The banana is not anti. It's it's matter but here's the thing about bananas. Bananas are full of Potassium. Which is really good for you. But there's also a radioactive isotope of potassium into banana. Call Potassium forty. This is a naturally occurring isotope So some Porsche. The potassium in the banana is potassium. Forty now here's the thing. Potassium forty when it decays eight usually releases an electron but very very very very rarely it releases and anti-electron so if we just hold this banana