Anti-Matter

(for those who missed out on both the 1932 announcement and its significance)

by T. L. Keller

anti-atom                                an atom of anti-matter consisting of anti-protons, positrons and anti-neutrons.

anti-electron                           an electron with a positive electric charge.  Same as a positron.

anti-hydrogen                         an anti-atom of hydrogen consisting of one anti-proton and one positron. On the Periodic Table of Elements, it would appear in the same position as normal hydrogen as it too has an atomic number of 1 (due to the one anti-proton).  Below, it is shown with blue lettering to represent anti-hydrogen.

  

anti-matter                             matter consisting of negatively-charged protons (anti-protons), positively-charged electrons (positrons) and anti-neutrons.  See matter.

anti-particle                            a particle of anti-matter.  Anti-particles include anti-protons, positrons, anti-neutrons and many other sub-particles.

anti-proton                             a proton with a negative electric charge.

dark matter                            A type of undiscovered matter, with a mass, representing 27% of all of the mass-energy in the Universe.

hydrogen                                an atom of hydrogen consisting of one proton and one electron.  On the Periodic Table of Elements,  it appears in the normal position of hydrogen.  It has an atomic number of 1 (due to the one proton).  Below, it is shown in red lettering to represent normal hydrogen.

matter                                    “normal” matter as is commonly known: electrons have a negative electric charge, protons have a positive electric charge and neutrons have no charge.

positron           electron with a positive, instead of negative, electric charge.

Background

My exposure to the concept of anti-matter began in 1966 shortly after the first Star Trekepisode was aired on our small-screen television.   After a number of episodes, I understood that the Enterprisewas powered by matter/anti-matter reactions. That is, when matter and anti-matter are brought together, they “annihilate” each other and release pure energy in a 100%-efficient reaction.  That is, no matter remained and only energy was released.  The engines were based around a primary “warp coil” that generated a matter/anti-matter reaction, which was focused through “dilithium crystals.”  The “warp drive” systems were contained within the engineering section. A dorsal pylon separated the upper saucer section from the lower engineering section (see illustration below). There were two “warp nacelles” set apart from the engineering section on long pylons.  Mechanically, it was pure fiction, but the principle of deriving vast amounts of energy from an anti-matter reaction is real.  

Star Trek’s USS Enterprise [1]


The Theory

Thirteen years after Albert Einstein developed his theory of relativity, British physicist Paul A. M. Dirac theorized (1928) that Einstein’s equation (E = mc²)did not consider the possibility that mass (m) could have a negativeelectrical charge or a positive electrical charge.

Mirror image twins: matter (left) and anti-matter


In principle, when anti-matter comes into contact with normal matter, these equal but opposite particles collide to produce an explosion emitting pure radiation, which travels out of the point of the explosion at the speed of light.Both particles that created the explosion are completely annihilated. The explosion that occurs when anti-matter and matter interact transfers the entire mass of both objects into energy. Scientists believe that this energy is more powerful than any that can be generated by other methods.

Technical Analysis [For those readers with a technical bend]

Some readers may wonder how, if the electrical charge is the reason for the mirror imaged twin particles, how can there be anti-neutrons?  Neutrons have no electrical charge and neither would anti-neutrons.    We now get into the theory of quantum mechanics and even smallerparticles calledquarks.  Quarks have mass and carry an electrical charge.  Neutrons are composed of  three quarks —  two, negatively charged “down” quarks and one positively charged “up” quark. Anti-neutrons are the opposite — two positively charged “down” anti-quarks and one negatively charged “up” anti-quark. The resulting anti-neutron is still electrically neutral just like the neutron, but internally it is composed of anti-particles.  In general, up quarks have an electrical charge of +2/3 and the down quarks have a -1/3 charge. Considering what is called The Standard Model of quantum physics, quarks come in six “flavors”: in addition to “up” and “down,” there are also “strange” and “charm” and “top” and “bottom” quarks. 2

Oddly, protons and anti-protons work in a similar manner.  Protons contain two up quarks and one down quark.  Anti-protons contain two up anti-quarks and one down anti-quark.   Gluons(shown below as the yellow “force” between the quarks) bind the quarks together.

Proton sub-particles – two up quarks and one down quark [3]




Electrons and positrons are not composed of smaller sub-particles.  Quantum mechanics isn’t simple, is it?

The Experiments

In 1932 the Caltech scientist Carl Anderson discovered the first evidence that Dirac was correct and that anti-particles existed.  In 1955, anti-protons were discovered at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley using the bevatron particle accelerator.  Pairing together positrons and anti-protons, scientists at CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva) created the first anti-atom (anti-hydrogen) in 1965.  Nine anti-hydrogen atoms were created, each lasting only 40 nanoseconds.  As of 1998, CERN researchers were creating anti-hydrogen atoms at the rate of about 2,000 atomsper hour.  But at that rate, to power an anti-matter starship, it’ll take forever to accumulate enough anti-matter to travel to Alpha Centauri (!). The only solution would seem to find anti-matter that occurs naturally.

CERN’s Anti-proton Decelerator [4]

Logically, at the time of the Big Bang there would have been roughly the same amount of matter and anti-matter created.  All things being equal, why would one outweigh the other?  Is it possible that particles (i.e., normal matter) outnumbered anti-particles at the time of the Big Bang? As stated above, the collision of particles and anti-particles destroys both. And because there may have been more “normal” particles in the Universe to start with, those are all that’s remaining. One might think that there may be no naturally-existing anti-particles in the Universe today. However, scientists discovered a possible deposit of anti-matter near the center of the Milky Way galaxy in 1977. If that does exist, it would mean that anti-matter exists naturally, and the need to make our own anti-matter would be eliminated.  Perhaps, in some far, far away region of our Universe beyond our ability to see it, there is more anti-matter than “normal” matter.

Here’s another thought.  Is there a relationship between dark matter and anti-matter?  Are there one or more  parallel universes where there is far more anti-matter than “normal” matter?  Since no one knows about dark matter or  parallel universes, for the time being we’ll just reserve judgment . . .

Future Space Propulsion?

Initially funded by the Thiel Foundation’s Breakout Labs, Positron Dynamics LLC owns and operates a positron beamline facility in Livermore, California, where they are conducting research and development on novel cold positron production techniques and positron-based propulsion systems.  Livermore is, not coincidently, located in the same city as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.   Their claim is that anti-matter is the “most energy dense material in the universe,” and their plan is to exploit that potential energy source in aerospace applications. Their press release states that, “Our core innovation is the ability to generate intense beams of cold positrons using proprietary array modulators combined with compact radioisotope sources of positrons.” 5

Positron Dynamics’ experimental positron test bed [6]

In her Space.com article, “Will Antimatter Engines Power the First Starships?” Sarah Lewin quotes their CEO: 7

“We’re working on a propulsion system based on antimatter that should be able to get us to Alpha Centauri in about 40 years,” Ryan Weed, a physicist and CEO of Positron Dynamics, said in [a] video. “When you’re talking about an antimatter drive, it’s about 1,000 times more efficient. You can actually accelerate to a significant fraction of the speed of light, which is really a requirement if you want to go to something that’s 4 light-years away.”

Commentary

Positron Dynamics LLC claims that using anti-matter, rocket propulsion, travel to Alpha Centauri will onlytake 40 years.  That’s a multi-generational, interstellar expedition.  Nearly 26 years ago, Ben Rich (former president of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works) said that we’ll never get to be interstellar travelers using rocket propulsion. 8  Rich said, “First, you have to understand that we will not get to the stars using chemical propulsion.  Second, we have to devise a new propulsion technology.  What we have to do is to find out where Einstein was wrong.” Perhaps what is needed is anti-matter energy generation combined with an even better, newer technology to shorten the travel time.  In a future article, “Space Warp Propulsion – Part 4,” we’ll examine just that sort of breakthrough technology combined with anti-matter energy generation.

Notes

  1. Fazekas, Andrew, Star Trek: The Official Guide to Our Universe,  National Geographic, 2016, front cover.
  2. Courtesy of Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark
  3. Baker, Joanne, 50 Ideas You Really Need To Know: Quantum Physics, Quercus, 2013, page 121.
  4. https://home.cern/news/news/experiments/new-antimatter-gravity-experiments-begin-cern
  5. http://www.positrondynamics.com
  6. Ibid.
  7. Lewin, Sarah, “Will Antimatter Engines Power the First Starships?” Space.com/tech, December 7, 2016.
  8. Keller, T. L., The Total Novice’s Guide to UFOs, 2FSPress, 2010, page 168 and digital edition.

© 2019 T. L. Keller 

T. L. Keller may be reached at: www.2FSPress.com   Comments are always appreciated.