Cosmic enigma eyed in new Cern project

2011-09-28 23:10

Geneva - Unravelling one of the great enigmas of the visible universe, why it is made up largely of matter, will be the target of a ground-breaking research project kicked off on Wednesday at a meeting of leading physicists from eight countries.

More precisely, the programme will aim to find why there is so little left of the anti-matter believed to have been present in equal quantities at the "Big Bang" 13.7 billion years ago but which then mysteriously disappeared, or all but.

The Cern particle physics research centre said the programme would be conducted with a new "Extra Low Energy Antiproton Ring", dubbed Elena, which will begin delivering large numbers of tiny anti-proton particles by 2016.

Attending this week's meeting at Cern, which is leading the project to begin in 2013 with the ring's installation, are scientists from Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

"This is a big step forward for anti-matter physics," said Walter Oelert, pioneer expert at Cern - home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) "Big Bang" machine - which said last week researchers had tracked particles travelling faster than light.

Anti-matter was discovered in 1932 after decades of theorising, and was quickly absorbed into science fiction with its capacity to destroy any ordinary matter it touches.

The matter is converted into instant energy, a fact that has led to speculation that such reactions could fuel ultra-fast spacecraft for inter-stellar travel or be adapted for military use as a trigger for nuclear weapons.

Anti-matter, matter with negative gravity, has already been used in cancer treatments, some developed at Cern, but spokesperson James Gillies said Elena would focus on pure physics.

More anti-protons

One of the prime questions facing researchers is why matter and anti-matter did not destroy each other at the time of the Big Bang, making creation of the universe and the emergence of life impossible, and why matter came out on top.

Gillies said Elena was a low-cost project funded out of the 20-nation centre's regular budget but would provide researchers with far more anti-protons than had been possible with earlier installations.

Project head Stephan Maury said Elena, a small decelerator ring to be housed alongside its existing but much less efficient anti-proton decelerator (AD), would deliver the anti-particles "at the lowest energies ever reached".

From the AD, in operation since the early 1990s, the anti-protons must be slowed down by passing them through a series of foil filters, a process that leads to the loss of 99.9% before they reach the experiments.

The new ring through which they will travel will slow them down to under one 50th of the energy of the AD, trapping up to 50% of the particles or more.

Oelet said this would not only greatly enhance the research potential of current experiments at Cern but would also make it much easier to start a wider range of tests on the make-up and behaviour of anti-matter.

  • Wyse-man - 2011-09-29 06:43

    It is all just speculation.They play with stuff that is above their IQ,and then they claim to know it all.The more you study nature ,the more you realize just how little we know.

      Epicurius - 2011-09-29 07:30

      The only way to know nature IS to study it. We will never know everything but it is extremely defeatist to imply we should not even try to learn. What would you prefer? The human race remains uninformed and doesn't enquire into the nature of the universe? Are you religious perhaps?

      Gman - 2011-09-29 07:35

      The fact that these scientists have the skills required to "play" with this "stuff" is an indication of just how intelligent they are. Your comment is pointless, rather dont read these articles if you know it all already.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-29 07:45

      Wyse-man... not a very appropriate nom-de-plume... Imagaine if Marie and Pierre Curie hadn't "played" with radium. Imagine if Alexander Fleming hadn't "played" with Penecillin. Imagine if Nikola Tesla hadn't "played" with electricity. Think you should pack your computer and all other electronic/electrical equipment back in their boxes, cancel your Medical Aid and go and live in a cave somewhere... you don't deserve to enjoy the advances humans have made

      capetonian - 2011-09-29 08:52

      You wouldn't perhaps have some strong religious views on our origins, would you? Can you imagine how concerned Galileo must have felt when the Vatican took exception to his statement that the earth wasn't the centre of the Universe.....point is, were it not for the continuing efforts of science we would still be in the "Dark Ages" much like where the Taliban would like us all to be... Darwin experienced much the same reaction when his book on our origins was released. And there are still many people today who firmly believe that the planet is 6000 years old......etc., etc.,

      Vitruvian Man - 2011-09-29 08:55

      There is a huge difference between studying nature and tampering with it's natural course of existence. People seem to forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki easily and that was just a little old A-bomb, now imagine a anti matter producing time altering device. What could we possibly do with that little harmless machine? RULE THE WORLD. If it truly is going to reveal all these mysteries, do you think you will benefit from it free of charge? Be careful, you might find yourself on your knees in front of that beast one day feeding it with your finger tips, helping to connect the whole human consciousness to a infinite computing grid.

      Organist-1 - 2011-09-29 13:38

      The more degrees these nutty scientists have, the less they know. Ignorent professors teach their ignorence to students who in tue-rn pass it on to Pupils. As for Nutty ----- Of course the curie's played with "stuff" beyond their IQ. That's why they both died the way they did.

      Ben - 2011-09-29 14:13

      Time for a name change "wyse-man"... If we only "played" with "stuff" you know we would still only know dick..

  • The lost Emperor - 2011-09-29 09:01

    "There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened." - Douglas Adams

      static - 2011-09-29 10:01

      well theories have to be proven with empirical evidence that can then be tested by peers

      kidblack - 2011-09-29 10:03

      thats assuming the big bang theory is in fact the real story.

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-29 10:18

      Kidblack... So long, and thanks for all the fish! part 4 of 3! No Big Bangs anywhere

      Ben - 2011-09-29 14:17

      In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people mad and been widely regarded as a bad idea. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

  • Badballie - 2011-09-29 15:24

    @Epicurius I don't think the idea of the comment was not to try learn, just that the only fact we have gained from science and the study of our universe is that nothing is written in stone, science although claimed to be a definite and provable group of theories continually proves it is not.

      Epicurius - 2011-09-30 06:18

      Maybe not, but the comment still had a tone of ignorance and defeatism.

  • Badballie - 2011-09-29 15:35

    @ GMAN, NUTTYZA and CAPETONIAN:- felling a little sensitive today are we? has your wife/lover/significant other berated you for playing with your little glass tubes during dinner again? maybe you need to take an extra Valium today? WYSE_MAN's comment is perfectly true and relevant, and as unassumingly intelligent and educated people you should not only accept his statement but also acknowledge its inherent truth. No where does he say lets not do it anymore, he simply points out that for the most its conjecture accepted as fact until disproved by someone else in several years.

  • Juzt Mythoughtz - 2011-09-29 21:42

    "Anti-matter, matter with negative gravity" Since when, author?? Yes, there are some new theories that state this, and its interaction with gravity has never been confirmed either way, BUT if true it would mean GR is wrong. Check your facts before publishing

      Tiens - 2011-10-11 03:26

      Negative gravity?!? And just one guy picked up this mistake, seriously?

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