With help from a state-of-the-art particle collider, a group of scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory were able to get a deeper insight into antimatter. The team learned that the elusive antimatter is more similar to ordinary matter than previously thought.
Antimatter has been puzzling scientists worldwide for decades, being one of the greatest mysteries of the universe and a possible key to answering critical questions about the origin of the universe.
Previous computer models showed that when the universe was created the amounts of matter and antimatter were equal, but somehow ordinary matter took over, and antimatter remained extremely scarce and well-hidden.
Aihong Tang, senior researcher involved in the particle collision experiments that unveiled more detailed outlook on antimatter, explained that when the Universe was in its first moments antimatter was as frequent as ordinary matter, which is not the situation we see in our days. Today, antimatter is elusive and ‘extremely rare.’
“It’s a huge mystery!,”
Tang also explained that anything we learn about antimatter could help scientists unlock the mystery, which was deemed ‘one of the big challenges of science’. Yet, a series of experiments involving particle collisions inside the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider’s (RHIC) STAR detector revealed that antiprotons react to one another just like ordinary protons do.
Researchers found that the attractive force between antiprotons is as strong as the force between regular protons. This finding challenges previous theories that the scarcity of antimatter in the universe may be the result of antimatter behaving entirely differently from regular matter.
RHIC is the only particle smasher in the world that can produce enough antimatter to be studied under laboratory conditions. In their experiments, Brookhaven scientists smashed gold nuclei into each other at speeds close to the speed of light. Researchers believe that they were able to recreate the exact conditions of universe when it was just a few microseconds old.
About 500 scientists were involved in the experiments that revealed the attractive force between two antiprotons is very much the same as the force between protons in ordinary matter.
Frank Geurts, a scientist at Rice University, said that the new experiments dismissed a previous hypothesis which stated that antimatter may have disappeared in the universe’s early moments because it lacked the attractive force of matter.
Yet, Geurts acknowledged that the findings did not give scientists a definite solution to the bigger problem, but they did remove one option.
A study on the discovery was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
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