Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by Parthy, Jan 13, 2011.

  1. Parthy

    Parthy Air Warrior Senior Member

    Aug 18, 2010
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    For the first time, scientists have discovered that powerful thunderstorms on Earth can fling beams of antimatter into space.

    The never-before-seen phenomenon, captured by NASA's orbiting Fermi gamma-ray observatory, has been billed as the most exciting discoveries in geoscience in a very long time.

    Antimatter is a mirror image of normal matter with unusual properties – protons with negative charges, electrons with positive charges, and so on. It was created in equal abundance to normal matter at the beginning of the Universe, but was destroyed when it came in contact with normal matter.

    "These signals are the first direct evidence that thunderstorms make antimatter particle beams," lead researcher Michael Briggs, of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

    "I think this is one of the most exciting discoveries in geoscience in a very long time," said Duke University's Steven Cummer, who was not involved in the research. "It seems like something straight out of science fiction."

    Fermi is designed to monitor gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light. When a piece of antimatter strikes the observatory and collides with "normal" matter, both particles immediately annihilate and are transformed into gamma rays – which Fermi can detect.

    In the new study, presented at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle recently, Fermi's Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) instrument picked up gamma rays with energies of 511,000 electron volts – a telltale sign that an electron has met its antimatter counterpart, a positron.

    The gamma-ray detector spotted the antimatter signals while searching for terrestrial flashes of gamma rays. To date, scientists have identified 130 gamma-ray flashes from Earth since Fermi's launch in 2008, and four of them clearly show antimatter signatures, the researchers said.

    "Even though Fermi couldn't see the storm, it nevertheless was magnetically connected to it," said Joseph Dwyer, of the Florida Institute of Technology.

    "This (terrestrial gamma-ray flash) produced high-speed electrons and positrons, which then rode up Earth's magnetic field to strike the spacecraft."

    The tops of thunderstorms harbour electric fields. Under the right conditions, scientists think, these fields can become strong enough that they drive an upward avalanche of electrons.

    When these electrons are deflected by molecules in the atmosphere, they emit gamma rays. Some of these gamma rays pass near atomic nuclei, in the process transforming into an electron and a positron, researchers said. It's these particles that reach Fermi's orbit.

    The revelation that thunderstorms can produce antimatter follows closely on the heels of the discovery that lightning can emit X-rays and gamma rays, researchers said.

    "Just a year or so ago, it wasn't at all obvious that something like this should happen," Dwyer said.

    Earth is likely not the only planet that boasts antimatter-generating storms, researchers said.

    "There's every reason to think the same processes are happening on other planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn," Dwyer added.
  3. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

    Aug 20, 2010
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    Gangtok, Sikkim, India
    Nice article man. But we are millennia away from harnessing this sort of stuff. As long as this effing government is there, we are not even close to making a decent gun on our own without losing some lakh crores in scams for every damn weapon.

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Feb 16, 2009
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    ALPHA stores antimatter atoms for nearly 17 minutes

    ALPHA stores antimatter atoms for nearly 17 minutes

    The ALPHA Collaboration, an international team of scientists working at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, has created and stored a total of 309 antihydrogen atoms, some for up to 1,000 seconds (almost 17 minutes), with an indication of much longer storage time as well.

    ALPHA announced in November, 2010, that they had succeeded in storing antimatter atoms for the first time ever, having captured 38 atoms of antihydrogen and storing each for a sixth of a second. In the weeks following, ALPHA continued to collect anti-atoms and hold them for longer and longer times.

    Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley, including Joel Fajans and Jonathan Wurtele of Berkeley Lab's Accelerator and Fusion Research Division (AFRD), both UC Berkeley physics professors, are members of the ALPHA Collaboration.

    Says Fajans, "Perhaps the most important aspect of this result is that after just one second these antihydrogen atoms had surely already decayed to ground state. These were likely the first ground state anti-atoms ever made." Since almost all precision measurements require atoms in the ground state, ALPHA's achievement opens a path to new experiments with antimatter.

    A principal component of ALPHA's atom trap is a superconducting octupole magnet proposed and prototyped in Berkeley Lab's AFRD. It takes ALPHA about 15 minutes to make and capture atoms of antihydrogen in their magnetic trap.

    "So far, the only way we know whether we've caught an anti-atom is to turn off the magnet," says Fajans. "When the anti-atom hits the wall of the trap it annihilates, which tells us that we got one. In the beginning we were turning off our trap as soon as possible after each attempt to make anti-atoms, so as not to miss any."

    Says Wurtele, "At first we needed to demonstrate that we could trap antihydrogen. Once we proved that, we started optimizing the system and made rapid progress, a real qualitative change."

    Initially ALPHA caught only about one anti-atom in every 10 tries, but Fajans notes that at its best the ALPHA apparatus trapped one anti-atom with nearly every attempt.

    Although the physical set-ups are different, ALPHA's ability to hold anti-atoms in a magnetic trap for 1,000 seconds, and presumably longer, compares well to the length of time ordinary atoms can be magnetically confined.

    "A thousand seconds is more than enough time to perform measurements on a confined anti-atom," says Fajans. "For instance, it's enough time for the anti-atoms to interact with laser beams or microwaves." He jokes that, at CERN, "it's even enough time to go for coffee."

    The ALPHA Collaboration not only made and stored the long-lived antihydrogen atoms, it was able to measure their energy distribution.

    "It may not sound exciting, but it's the first experiment done on trapped antihydrogen atoms," Wurtele says. "This summer we're planning more experiments, with microwaves. Hopefully we will measure microwave-induced changes of the atomic state of the anti-atoms." With these and other experiments the ALPHA Collaboration aims to determine the properties of antihydrogen and measure matter-antimatter asymmetry with precision.

    A program of upgrades is being planned that will allow experiments not possible with the current ALPHA apparatus. At present the experimenters don't have laser access to the trap. Lasers are essential for performing spectroscopy and for "cooling" the antihydrogen atoms (reducing their energy and slowing them down) to perform other experiments.

    Fajans says, "We hope to have laser access by 2012. We're clearly ready to move to the next level."

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Feb 16, 2009
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    Antimatter Breakthrough Could Lead to Starships, Says Scientist | News & Opinion |

    Antimatter Breakthrough Could Lead to Starships, Says Scientist

    Scientists at CERN, the research facility that's home to the Large Hadron Collider, claim to have successfully created and stored antimatter in greater quantities and for longer times than ever before.

    Researchers created 38 atoms of antihydrogen – more than ever has been produced at one time – and were able to keep the atoms stable enough to last one tenth of a second before they annihilated themselves (antimatter and matter destroy each other the moment they come into contact). Since those first experiments, the researchers claimed to have held antiatoms for even longer, though they weren't specific of the duration.

    While scientists have been able to create particles of antimatter for decades, they had previously only been able to produce a few particles that would almost instantly destroy themselves.

    "This is the first major step in a long journey," Michio Kaku, physicist and author of Physics of the Impossible, told PCMag. "Eventually, we may go to the stars."

    For now, scientists are interested in producing antimatter in these relatively large quantities because it could lend insight into fundamental physical laws. It's generally believed in the scientific community that at the universe's creation, both matter and antimatter existed but not in the same quantity, so when the two annihilated each other, only matter remained. That could be because antimatter behaves differently than the regular variety.

    "It's a fundamental tenet of physics that antimatter and matter behave very similarly although not exactly," said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, in an interview. "And in order to really test that, you need anti-atoms. Being able to test the properties of antimatter at a whole new level of precision is obviously important."

    Further into the future, Kaku believes we may be able to use antimatter as the "ultimate rocket fuel," since it's 100 percent efficient – all of the mass is converted to energy. By contrast, thermonuclear bombs only use about 1 percent.

    "One of the main uses of antimatter would be a starship," said Kaku. "Because you want concentrated energy. And you can't get more concentrated than antimatter."

    Producing large quantities of antimatter is impossible today, Kaku admits. But with the right developments, he thinks it could become a reality: "These machines were not specifically designed to create antimatter. These machines are all-purpose machines. But with time, mass production, better technology, and dedicated machines we could reduce costs considerably."

    Krauss isn't as bullish as Kaku on the long-term applications of antimatter. Even though he is the author of The Physics of Star

    Trek, Krauss had just one thing to say when asked about antimatter-powered starships.
    "Don't hold your breath."
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