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article imageAntimatter experiment may make apple fall upwards

By Stephen Morgan     May 2, 2013 in Science
After the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, a group called ALPHA at CERN's Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, is continuing the quest to find answers to the riddles of the universe.
CNN reports that scientists in Switzerland have started experiments to see if an antimatter apple could fall upwards or downwards. They believe it should fall downwards, but there is a possibility it will go upwards instead.
The story goes that Sir Issac Newton discovered gravity, when an apple fell from a tree and hit him on the head. Consequently, he tried to explain what made it fall downwards and came up with the theory of gravity. Now scientists are doing experiments, which may lead to the discovery of the opposite, anti-gravity. The Daily Mail quotes the lead scientist involved, Professor Joel Fajans, from the University of California at Berkeley, US, who said, “Is there such a thing as antigravity? Based on free-fall tests so far, we can't say yes or no. We certainly expect antimatter to fall down, but just maybe we will be surprised.'
However, they cannot actually use antimatter the size of an apple, because that would blow the world up, even if they could produce enough of it. The problem being that as soon as matter and antimatter meet they annihilate each other in a nano-explosion. This fact makes the experiments extremely important, because it could tell us a lot more about how the universe was created and what happened during the Big Bang.
Scientists have always faced a conundrum over the existence of antimatter, since their theories on the origins of the universe say that at the very beginning of time, there had to be equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. So, if that was the case, the two would have annihilated each other and the universe wouldn't exist! Therefore, there must be some key difference between the two and this is what they want to find out. Fajans,told the LA Times that, "There's the faintest possibility that the theories are fundamentally wrong."
To further complicate issues, anti-matter has disappeared and they don't know why. Only matter has been left behind and it's a puzzle. Just exactly how matter attracts matter is also not understood. Moreover, whether this has anything do with dark matter and dark energy isn't clear either, because, although this substance must theoretically exist in abundance in the universe, nobody has ever seen it. The founder of the ALPHA group, Jeffrey Hangs, told CNN “we cannot account for most of the matter and energy in the universe......We know that there is something fundamental about the universe that we don't understand."
To try to answer these questions, the scientists have created antihydrogen, which has an opposite electronic charge to normal hydrogen. They then carried out an experiment to see what would happen when they let it drop. They created what they called a “magnetic trap” to put the antimatter in and then turned off the magnetic field. The first problem they encountered was that when they let it free-fall, it hit matter in the form of the trap walls and was destroyed in a series of mini-explosions. Consequently, they aren't quite sure which way it went - up or down?
The LA Times says that the good news is that they now have the technique to measure gravity's effect on matter and they just have to refine it to get the answers. Professor Fajans said that while it's unlikely that the apple would fall upwards, the experiments make produce "a window of opportunity for other strange things to happen."
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