According to the genesis, the Big Bang theory was a giant explosion, and it left behind our universe, and what we call matter. What we aren’t commonly told is that, just like yin and yang, and good and bad, matter exists as a pair of opposites. When matter came into being, antimatter was also formed but, in a smaller proportion, and only one per billion particles of antimatter have survived till the twenty first century.
But the question arises, what is antimatter? And why is it a buzz among today’s scientists? Antimatter, as the name suggests is a branch of matter that contradicts the more commonly found matter. Antimatter has the same mass as its counterparts, but, it has a more significant quality, opposite to matter. Antimatter has positively charged electrons, called positrons, and negatively charged protons, commonly referred to as ‘Anti-protons’. This gives antimatter a net charge opposite to that of matter, giving it a tendency to annihilate all matter it comes in contact with, and this annihilation can produce energy proportional to the mass of both antimatter and matter involved.
The most basic difference between ordinary matter and anti-matter it that they have oppositely charged particles
The idea of contradictory matter dates back to the 1880s when scientists created a theory of matter with negative gravity. The term ‘anti-matter’ however was not used until 1898 when Arthur Schuster, used it in his letters to nature and hypothesized about anti-atoms and opposing matter, but Arthur’s work was merely theoretical, and held no scientific importance. Modern work on antimatter was kick started by Paul Dirac, though he didn’t use the term antimatter. And by 1929, an entire antimatter periodic table had come into being.
Positrons are known to naturally exist in our solar system. They are produced in decaying of naturally existing radioactive isotopes for example potassium-40, and antimatter has also been detected in the contact of gamma rays and matter. Any environment with sufficiently high temperatures can also form antimatter, due to which it was produced as a byproduct of the big bang. Recent observations state that, faraway galaxies, and black holes contain vast amounts of antimatter plasma.
Synthetic creation of antimatter has also been reported, and in 2008, The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory produced a significant amount of positrons. The experimental existence of anti-protons was confirmed by scientists working at University of California Berkeley in 1955, and this won them the Nobel Physics prize in 1959.
In 1995, CERN successfully created 9 antihydrogen particles. These particles however are referred to as ‘hot antihydrogen’, and is highly unstable and working with it is very risky. And, in 2014, CERN produced 80 ‘cold’ antihydrogen particles. These are less reactive, and can remain stable as long as they don’t come into contact with matter. To avoid this contact with matter, they are stored in canisters with an arrangement of electric and magnetic fields to avoid physical contact between the two.
Strangely, matter and antimatter annihilations form no byproducts, and merely quarter of a gram of antimatter can completely obliterate everything in a one mile radius. This continues to make it a reason of speculation and curiosity in the scientific world. And despite its high prices, antimatter is becoming increasingly popular in high tech laboratories, and it is perhaps the deadliest weapon man has ever stumbled upon.