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Antimatter

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

By Oleksandr Koliakin


You have probably read about antimatter in some sci-fi books, or found out about it in a sci-fi movie, when they built something like an antimatter bomb, or an antimatter engine. But what is antimatter?


Antimatter does not have negative mass (exotic matter has negative mass) but apart from that, it is pretty much the opposite of normal matter.


Most of us believe that something can't appear out of nothing. However, in the strange world of quantum mechanics, particles can appear literally out of energy. Einstein's equation states that energy is equal to mass times the speed of light squared, which basically means that energy can be converted into mass, and vice versa. Particles (usually quarks and antiquarks) keep popping into existence, which takes up energy. They are usually around for a short amount of time, before the particle and the antiparticle annihilate each other to produce a few photons, particles that carry electromagnetic energy.


In particle colliders, scientists have successfully managed to produce a couple of antihydrogen atoms. There might be whole stars or galaxies made up of antimatter, waiting to be discovered. Theoretically, the could look just like normal galaxies, even though they are made out of antimatter. Nobody knows whether they exist, or not.


The positronium is an exotic atom, made out of an electron and an antielectron orbiting around each other. The chemical representation of positronium is Ps. However, positroniums are highly unstable, the particles that it is made out of usually annihilate each other. In fact, the mean half life of a positronium is about one-tenth of a nanosecond (and a nanosecond is one billionth of a second)


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