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Scientists Hold Antimatter Captive — For Milliseconds

The journal Nature reports in its online edition that scientists have, for the first time, created antimatter and managed to keep it alive for 170 milliseconds. This is big news because antimatter and matter destroy each other instantly. So any time scientists have created antimatter it's gone before they know it. Nature reports:

Now a research collaboration at CERN, Europe's particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland, has managed, 38 times, to confine single antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic trap for more than 170 milliseconds. The group reported the result in Nature online on 17 November. "We're ecstatic. This is five years of hard work," says Jeffrey Hangst, spokesman for the ALPHA collaboration at CERN.

The feat is a major step forward in the study of the fundamental physics and the origins of the universe. Scientists theorize that out of the Big Bang emerged an equal amount of matter and antimatter and they should have cancelled each other out in an explosion of energy. But scientists haven't been able to figure out why matter exists in abundance, while antimatter doesn't seem to occur in nature.

The next step for scientists is keeping antimatter captive long enough to see if it's any different than matter. The Los Angeles Times explains the significance:

Hangst said his team would like to shine a laser at the stored antihydrogen atoms to see if they behave the same way hydrogen atoms do.

The Standard Model of particle physics predicts that hydrogen and antihydrogen atoms should be identical, he said. "If they're not, everything needs to be reexamined, and textbooks need to be rewritten," he added.

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