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article imageHeaviest antimatter discovered

By Paul Wallis     Mar 4, 2010 in Science
Antimatter, the inverted state of matter described as “negative matter”, is hard to find and tougher to analyze. A new heavy antimatter particle, including an anti proton and anti neutron, has been found by the Brookhaven facility.
This is yet another major achievement by the U.S. Department of Energy's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the particle accelerator at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
It’s no small find. The theory of antimatter is well known, but the facts are much more elusive. The new anti-nucleus is a potential Rosetta Stone for untangling the realities of antimatter.
Science Daily explains:
The new antinucleus, discovered at RHIC's STAR detector, is a negatively charged state of antimatter containing an antiproton, an antineutron, and an anti-Lambda particle. It is also the first antinucleus containing an anti-strange quark. The results are published online by Science Express on March 4, 2010.
(“Strange” is a reference to the properties of subatomic particles in normal matter. “Anti-strange” means the antimatter version.)
The structure of this particle may look familiar: An anti proton and an anti neutron is half way between hydrogen and helium as a positive matter analog. This would be a very odd looking beast in normal matter, a close relative of a type of heavy hydrogen, but apparently it’s a working proposition as antimatter.*
The finding is confirming a lot of theories. It’s also adding considerable analytical capabilities in the process, because the particle has clear properties which can be tabulated.
Science Daily has a graphic of the 3D chart used to map the Periodic Table including various properties of atoms in different states. There’s a further measure called “strangeness”, which covers the presence of subatomic particles and their effects, in addition to the familiar set of boxes of elements, and antimatter atoms factored in. (Be patient with the chart, because it turns into a much more familiar version of the Periodic Table after a while.)
Antimatter is the Cinderella of physics. It may be the glass slipper in theory in several areas of physics, not least of which is why this universe is positively charged. **
Stay tuned to RHIC and the Brookhaven facility, because they’re opening up a lot of new areas of study which are explaining some truly fundamental issues in physics.
*This is pure speculation, but it may be that there’s another type of function involved in structures like this nucleus. Positive matter can produce some pretty weird, ornery, exotics. Theory may have got carried away with the purely “negative” aspects of antimatter, and not have been looking closely enough at the middle ground, or other functional relationships. If there are other types of possible antimatter structures, based on subatomic relationships, there may well be some quite different properties involved. “Anti-strange” may be a lot stranger than suspected. The heavy hydrogen analogy may indicate a process of semi parallel nucleus formation which could be reasonably expected after the Big Bang’s massive surge of subatomic particles and antiparticles. The “charging” of the universe may have created an environment which promoted different types of antimatter formation.
**It also leaves open to debate why an anti-mass of the size supposed to have been created by the Big Bang should be written out of the equation in the search for dark matter to explain the “missing” mass of the universe… doesn’t it? Surely something as hard to isolate and positively identify as antimatter (excuse the expression) qualifies as “dark”, and it’s known there was a lot of it, expressed and obviously functional as mass, in the formation of the universe.
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