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Anti-Matter Created By Laser At Livermore

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the billions-and-billiions dept.

Government 465

zootropole alerts us to a press release issued today by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, announcing the production of 'billions of particles of anti-matter.' "Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear. The anti-matter, also known as positrons, shoots out of the target in a cone-shaped plasma 'jet.' This new ability to create a large number of positrons in a small laboratory opens the door to several fresh avenues of anti-matter research, including an understanding of the physics underlying various astrophysical phenomena such as black holes and gamma ray bursts." The press release doesn't characterize the laser used in this experiment, but it may have been this one.

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465 comments

Hey! (4, Funny)

Robin47 (1379745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797927)

Watch where you point that thing!

Re:Hey! (5, Funny)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798153)

Don't lase me, bro!

Re:Hey! (1)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798221)

Anti-matter particle beam... AMPB..nah.. Beam of Antimatter Particles! thats it! BAP

Quick question for anyone with the knowledge (4, Insightful)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798265)

Does anyone know if this might someday lead to antimatter plants? From a special on discovery, I heard that antimatter has a 100% mass to energy conversion, and uranium/plutonium is very expensive to enrich, so using gold for energy wouldn't be too impractical. This would be very exciting research if it does mean cheap energy at that scale with no pollution.

Re:Quick question for anyone with the knowledge (4, Insightful)

nebaz (453974) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798417)

No. While antimatter may have a 100% mass to energy conversion, it takes more energy to create it than it gives off.

Re:Quick question for anyone with the knowledge (1)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798425)

Sorry,the energy you get from the antimatter, if you can collect every single bit, it still even lower than the energy needed to fire the laser. That's conservation of energy for ya.

Re:Quick question for anyone with the knowledge (5, Interesting)

CroDragn (866826) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798463)

You can't generate a net positive energy source with antimatter. Best you can hope for is to use the antimatter as a form of energy storage (think battery, fuel, etc). Of course, storage problems make it impractical for nearly every use, so don't expect anti-matter cars... ever. Space travel, however, would greatly benefit from a decent means of generating antimatter, since fuel mass trumps most other concerns in that field and anti-matter provides the most thrust/mass of any theoretical substance.

Re:Quick question for anyone with the knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798591)

dot

Re:Quick question for anyone with the knowledge (1)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798667)

One step closer to developing the matter/anti-matter reactor. Star Trek will become reality!

Holy Mackerel! (5, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797931)

Does anyone know how much energy this takes? They mentioned the previous petawatt laser experiment that was decommissioned, but I didn't see where it mentioend the power required for this experiment. If the laser guess by kdawson is correct, we could be looking at a mere 400 joules per 1E11 positrons. Which (if I'm not mistaken) would be an unheard of efficiency for creating antimatter! (Can someone verify? My brain is fried at the moment.)

What I find interesting is that this level of production is competitive with Fermilab [fnal.gov] . Even if they ran this twice an hour, they'd handily meet or outstrip Fermilab production.

Even more interesting is the possibility for mass manufacture of antimatter. By using mass-produced gold targets, you could rotate the materials in and out of the machine every few seconds, creating previously unseen amounts of antimatter. Such a process could easily provide materials for an antimatter catalyzed fission drive [wikipedia.org] . Possibly even enough to power new forms of interplanetary propulsion.

Am I the only one who's getting really excited about this? /dreamer

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Funny)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797945)

...Such a process could easily provide materials for an antimatter catalyzed fission drive. Possibly even enough to power new forms of interplanetary propulsion...

Am I the only one who's getting really excited about this?

probably. they still haven't been able to crystallize di-lithium yet.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Insightful)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798211)

Does anyone know how much energy this takes? They mentioned the previous petawatt laser experiment that was decommissioned, but I didn't see where it mentioend the power required for this experiment.

The great thing about this for spaceflight isn't that it takes a lot or a little to produce antimatter, but rather that the density of usable energy is orders upon orders of magnitude greater than chemical or electric rockets. Denser energy leads to more fuel carried leads to greater delta v leads to semi-relativist flight leads to hate leads to suffering. These can even be used within the atmosphere to launch rockets from the ground easier than you can say "prompt gamma ray output".

Re:Holy Mackerel! (4, Insightful)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797955)

Even more interesting is the possibility for mass manufacture of antimatter. By using mass-produced gold targets, you could rotate the materials in and out of the machine every few seconds, creating previously unseen amounts of antimatter.

If true, this is the 1940s all over again -- only on a larger scale. A thimbleful of antimatter would make any H-bomb look like a popgun. (...and yeah, I know we're not yet talking about anywhere near that order of magnitude. Yet.) It would certainly help with space exploration -- but we humans can't even be completely trusted with gunpowder and jet airplanes yet. *sigh*

Re:Holy Mackerel! (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798129)

If true, this is the 1940s all over again -- only on a larger scale

Not really. We've already done the whole Cold War/Mutually Assured Destruction thing. Our weapons are already far, far larger than we could ever deploy here on Earth. Making them that much bigger only makes them that much more useless. At best, the only real advantage would be that they could be scaled down.

Until we start looking at warfare on an interplanetary or interstellar scale, our existing nukes and possible antimatter warheads are going to sit in their silos and go unused. Or in the case of antimatter bombs, I simply hope they're not built. The idea of a large-scale antimatter warhead being prevented from detonation by mere magnetic fields maintained by the nearest power plant is not an appealing idea. Just disrupt the power infrastructure for long enough and we'll blow ourselves to kingdom come. :-/

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798239)

Until we start looking at warfare on an interplanetary or interstellar scale, our existing nukes and possible antimatter warheads are going to sit in their silos and go unused.

Nukes have already been used, and do to dangerous attitudes like yours, which seem to proliferate as more time passes since the last use, they are likely to be used again.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798281)

Nukes have already been used

Yeah, once. (Twice if you want to be pedantic.) Then never again. The whole point was that the display of force showed that the weapons were too dangerous to use. As long as the various sides have them pointed at each other, no one dares use them.

The only reason why the Cold War was so terrible was that the USA and the USSR were both waiting for the other to attack. Since neither one liked each other much (for both idealogical and practical reasons) the chance that an armed conflict would happen between the two powers was pretty darn high. Except that an armed conflict might precipitate into a nuclear war should either side feel backed into a corner.

Thus the reason why the US didn't win Vietnam. The chance of starting a nuclear war was too great to risk pressing the war to a conclusion. Which raised the (very legitimate) question of why we were even in the conflict to begin with.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (-1, Flamebait)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798429)

Which raised the (very legitimate) question of why we were even in the conflict to begin with.

Exactly. For that matter why establish Nato or help Western Europe. Nuclear war is very bad and one might start if the Russians got pissed off. Best keep them sweet and not get in the way of their expansionism. Hell, when it comes down to it, why not let the Cubans take over Florida. After all if you stop them there's a risk of nuclear war. And people in Florida would much rather live in peace under communism than die in a war. Hell, why bother defending any of the states. Once the commies take over there will be peace. After all, absolutely no one died in Russia or China or Cambodia after the Communist victory when they decided to get rid of their enemies.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798565)

We learned an invaluable lesson out of Vietnam. We learned that the Cold War was not going to be won on military might. Which eventually lead to the solution of bankrupting the USSR. (Something which would have eventually happened anyway, just much slower.) The part that hurts is that we learned the lesson at the cost of millions of lives. At that high of a price, we may as well have dropped a nuclear bomb.

Don't get me wrong. I do not have a particular position on the war. In fact, many South Vietnamese are very grateful for the work our troops did over there. But in the 20/20 hindsight of history, we can see what an incredible price the Cold War exacted. The desire not to return to such horrors is a strong incentive for the world to never fire their nuclear arsenals in anger.

Of course, there is the sticking point of Iran. There's a good chance a LOT of people in the Middle East could die should Iran gain nuclear weapons and decide to use them regionally. There's a fair likelihood that Iran would be glassed over in retribution, but the damage will have already been done. With a little luck and a lot of prayer, MAD will ensure that Iran never fires her weapons.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (2, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798613)

Which eventually lead to the solution of bankrupting the USSR. (Something which would have eventually happened anyway, just much slower.)

Or, to be exact, it didn't happen [slashdot.org] .

Re:Holy Mackerel! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798447)

Once? Twice? You are woefully misinformed.

At BEST, you can qualify the shit out of that and get truth;

Nuclear devices in the megatons have only been deployed and detonated in a theater of openly declared war twice.

Nuclear weapons have been used in offensive capacities dozens of times. That's not referring to test detonations, either. If you include those, it's easily thousands of detonations in history.

Keep in mind that like antimatter, fission also scales down. The US and USSR both learned that in the 60s and 70s. A sufficiently small nuclear detonation can be presented to non-experts as a conventional blast.

My Captcha is 'failures'

Re:Holy Mackerel! (5, Informative)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798517)

Nuclear devices in the megatons have only been deployed and detonated in a theater of openly declared war twice.

If you're referring to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you're wrong. Both of those devices were in the kilotons, not megatons.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798521)

The only reason why the Cold War was so terrible was that the USA and the USSR were both waiting for the other to attack. Since neither one liked each other much (for both idealogical and practical reasons) the chance that an armed conflict would happen between the two powers was pretty darn high. Except that an armed conflict might precipitate into a nuclear war should either side feel backed into a corner.

You are misinformed about how close and how often the US and USSR came to nuclear exchange, and at the very real strategic possibility that first strike was the safest option, and at the political strength of it's proponents. This is beside the near-missed accidental launches that happened on both sides several times.

You probably are also not aware of how far the nuclear situation has deteriorated since the end of the cold war.

Your Panglossian view of Nukes and MAD, which is probably representative of a broad swath of people who would rather not think about this world of terror, will lead us right towards nuclear war.

Thus the reason why the US didn't win Vietnam. The chance of starting a nuclear war was too great to risk pressing the war to a conclusion. Which raised the (very legitimate) question of why we were even in the conflict to begin with.

Where the hell did you get this idea? What could we possibly have done to Vietnam that would have caused a nuclear attack from the communists? If we'd turned Vietnam into glass ourselves, a long shot but maybe. Even so, that outcome even without retaliation would have been much worse than the one we got.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (-1, Troll)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798677)

Nobody in USSR cared about Vietnam (or China, or Yugoslavia, or Cuba, or Nicaragua, or Grenada...) enough to start a nuclear war. It's all an invention of American war-losers who still can't admit that they were beaten by people of "inferior race".

You know what?

THE WHOLE WORLD ALREADY KNOWS THAT US LOST VIETNAM WAR.
NO ONE OUTSIDE US WILL EVER BELIEVE YOU IF YOU CLAIM OTHERWISE.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798597)

Anti matter bombs are not very practical because they require quite large amounts of anti-matter -- and more anti-matter you have the harder it is to contain.

So the containing is the problem. Atomic weapons are quite small and easy to store for a long time. Anti-matter bombs leak constantly because of quantum effects.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798659)

The US military has already started demanding one [noahshachtman.com] . Which means some other country has a program as well, my bet is Russia. The only peaceful use for such power that I can conceive of would be to restart the core of a planet like Mars to give it a magnetic field.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (4, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798165)

60e6*1e3 kcal / c^2= 2.8 kg [google.com] of antimatter will give any H-bomb look like.. uh.. something that's the same size as an H-bomb. H-bombs have been proposed (and postulated to have been built) that are larger than 60 MT, and a pop-gun typically has only a few Joules, so you'd need many orders of magnitude more than 2 kg of antimatter to make an H-bomb look like a pop-gun. something like.. four times the mass of mount Everest, in antimatter.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (4, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798253)

It's even worse than that. During a panel at LACon II, back in '84, Dr. Robert Forward said that according to the best calculations, if you dropped a lump of anti-matter on the floor, it wouldn't vanish in a flash of gamma rays, it would sizzle like a drop of water on a hot griddle. You see, the anti-matter can only interact with its environment and annihilate on its surface, and there's this little thing called the "cube-square law" that says that very little of it is going to be on the surface.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Interesting)

Rayban (13436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798339)

What would happen if you aerosolized said cube with a small explosive?

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Funny)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798479)

Good question. I presume that the reaction would be somewhat more energetic, but nobody thought to ask, and he didn't say.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Interesting)

Klaus_1250 (987230) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798257)

(60e6 * 1e3 kcal) / (c^2) = 2.7931967 grams. That is about a factor 1000 less.

The largest H-bomb ever build/detonated, the russian Tsar Bomb, was about 50MT, but capable of 100MT. I never heard of anything larger, but is/was there?

Re:Holy Mackerel! (4, Informative)

Ann Coulter (614889) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798371)

It should be (60e6 * 1e3 kcal) / (2*c^2) = 1.39659835 since the normal matter that will also be annihilated will contribute to the mass-energy conversion.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798431)

Indeed, the manufacture of antimatter bombs would most certainly accelerate space exploration.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

shma (863063) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798487)

If true, this is the 1940s all over again -- only on a larger scale.

Calm down. The energy released by annihilating 100 billion positrons doesn't even come to 10 millijoules. Let me put it another way. According to Wikipedia, 0.6 g of matter was transformed into energy in the first uranium bomb explosion. This amount of anti-matter weighs 10^-16 g. That's 16 orders of magnitude less energy released. On top of that, there's no way to contain antimatter for long periods of time, so there's no way to gather enough anti-matter to make a bomb. But even if that technology were discovered tomorrow, and we could produce this much anti-matter every second, it would take a billion years to get enough anti-matter to make a bomb as powerful as only the first atom bomb. Feel better?

Re:Holy Mackerel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25797969)

Thermodynamics at work. Converting matter to antimatter and then into energy will take more energy than was released. Unless there is some kind of 'catalyst' that lowers the input energy requirements.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798337)

Bzzt, wrong. Converting M into AM takes a certain amount of energy which may or may not be(probably is) less than the energy released by a M/AM annihilation event.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Funny)

magarity (164372) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797977)

Possibly even enough to power new forms of interplanetary propulsion
 
Yeah, because NASA (and similar agencies around the world) have whopping piles of cash laying around for this.
 
Reporter: What's it like to fly the new spaceship?
Pilot: Like burning a load of gold as fast as I can!
 
Yeah, and you think the class warfare rhetoric between the rich and poor nations is bad now?!?

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798067)

Yeah, because NASA (and similar agencies around the world) have whopping piles of cash laying around for this.

Yeah, research dollars would never fund anything like that. Except when they [wikipedia.org] do [wikipedia.org] .

Is it really so hard to click through the links? :-/

FWIW, there are quite a few antimatter engines on the drawing board. They're only missing one key component: Antimatter. And this new technology may be the key to providing it in spades. (Relatively speaking, of course.)

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

alxkit (941262) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798529)

is it the same NASA that does not have whopping piles of cash laying around to do urine degustation?

Re:Holy Mackerel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25797979)

By itself, that many positrons wouldn't provide anywhere near a net positive amount of energy. If you annihilated them all with electrons and managed to capture 100% of the resulting energy, you'd have 10**11 electron masses * c**2 ~= 0.016 Joules.

Sure, you could use the antimatter to fuel some other reaction as you suggested, but then again we already have fission reactors which produce net positive energy.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (4, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798035)

Why is everyone so hung up on an energy-positive reaction? Antimatter is the ultimate in fuel for space-propulsion as it produces the highest theoretical amount of energy for the least possible mass. (i.e. 100% conversion - losses to nuetrinos that cannot be captured) This plays well into the rocket formula, giving antimatter drives a specific impulse unattainable with other rocket methodologies. In fact, the far-flung future may see c-ships [fourmilab.ch] traveling the stars based on matter-antimatter drives.

What I want verified is not if this process is energy efficient or not. I want to know if this process is several orders of magnitude more efficient than the current Fermilab and CERN processes.

Sure, you could use the antimatter to fuel some other reaction as you suggested, but then again we already have fission reactors which produce net positive energy.

Once again, antimatter catalyzation makes the fuel more efficient for its weight and thus plays well into the rocket formula.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798245)

There's nothing wrong with your post--I'm just pointing out that it's still not close [wikipedia.org] to 100% conversion:

Not all of that energy can be utilized by any realistic technology, because as much as 50% of energy produced in reactions between nucleons and antinucleons is carried away by neutrinos, so, for all intents and purposes, it can be considered lost.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (2, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798297)

That would probably be why I said, "i.e. 100% conversion - losses to nuetrinos that cannot be captured". Apologies for mixing in the minus sign rather than spelling it out. As I mentioned previously, it's late and my frain is bried. ;-)

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798483)

that's a pretty interesting concept. it seems very far-fetched, but they've obviously put a lot of thought into the technical and logistical problems such a ship would face. here's an excerpt of my favorite part:

Shield
Our ship is icy-white in colour for the very excellent reason that its exterior is made of water ice, one of the most abundant substances in the universe. When we travel at extreme velocities, dust particles impact our ship with the energy of a nuclear bomb, and even hydrogen atoms erode her hull. Before embarking on a mission, we re-make the surface of the ship with ice harvested from the abundant comets surrounding the star we're departing. During the mission, self-reproducing robots built with molecular-scale engineering repair damage to the ice shield around our ship. The ice protects us against impacts with interstellar and intergalactic gas and tiny dust particles. If we hit something of tangible size, like a rock, it'll be a really bad day; astronomers on distant planets will catalogue yet another enigmatic gamma ray burst.

hopefully by then we'll have invented deflector shields and inertial dampeners (so that humans can ride on such ships without being liquefied).

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798559)

That page on c ships is fascinating

    Alpha Centauri 4.36 ly 268 days 0.999128 4.56 years
          Sirius 8.64 ly 314 days 0.999769 8.84 years
          Polaris 783 ly 1.71 years 0.999999997 783.4 years

Is it me or is 8.84 years not a bad deal for a trip to Sirius?

I suspect if you had the technology to make the antimatter, some sort of suspended animation would be well within your capabilities too given current advances in molecular biology. And given time you could colonise the galaxy slowly but surely in series of short (<20ly) hops from star to star.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798367)

We already have fission reactors which produce net positive energy, so there is no need to research any alternative energy source?

LAUNCH VEHICLE? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798227)

What about powering some kind of heavy-lift launch vehicle, to heft heavy payloads into orbit?

I'd read about research into using nuclear isomers to power scramjets and even long-duration predator-style drones, but the nuclear isomer stuff didn't pan out back then (interestingly, it's now making a comeback, thanks to LLNL)

Anyway, couldn't anti-matter similarly be used to generate the x-rays to heat propellant, or even just an airstream? That could make for a lightweight rocketship. Although you'd probably want it to be unmanned.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (3, Interesting)

Quantum Jim (610382) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798399)

I don't think this compares with Fermilab. The fine article is talking about creating positrons, not anti-protons. This isn't the first time I've heard about creating positrons from a laser shown upon a gold foil target. Here are two (from 2004 and 2001 respectively) that I just found on Google Scholar describing a result and a theory behind the positron production:

http://llacolen.ciencias.uchile.cl/~vmunoz/download/papers/wclpp05.pdf [uchile.cl]
http://www-project.slac.stanford.edu/lc/local/PolarizedPositrons/doc/ClassicalPapers/B_Shen-J_Meyer-ter-Vehn-PRE65_16405.pdf [stanford.edu]

It also isn't very efficient. They make 10^11 positrons per 400 J of energy input. If those positrons react with 10^11 electrons, they produce gamma rays with the energy 2 * (electron mass * (10^11)) * (c^2) = 0.0163742083 joules. Maybe it is more efficient than Fermilab, but that's still not very much. Since these are light positrons - not heavy anti-protons - I don't think these results would be very useful for fusion. Maybe as a source of gamma rays or as a research tool.

Re:Holy Mackerel! (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798435)

Thank you sir, you are my hero. (Even if you did just burst my balloon. :-P) Now I'm off to get some rest. By morning all the math should make sense again and I'm sure I'll be kicking myself with a "why didn't I see that?"

Thanks again! It really is appreciated. :-)

doh! (5, Funny)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797937)

Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear.

It's so simple, I wish I'd thought of it!

Re:doh! (1)

gaspyy (514539) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798329)

Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear.

It's so simple, I wish I'd thought of it!

Don't worry, someone probably already has a patent on it.

Re:doh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798539)

This idea was invented by Shampoo.

Efficiency Considerations (1)

omnilynx (961400) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797959)

I wonder how efficient this process could be made. If it could be done with relative efficiency, would it be worthwhile to start looking at antimatter as a viable energy storage solution for certain applications? As far as I was aware, one of the major roadblocks to that was the antimatter creation process.

Re:Efficiency Considerations (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798259)

As far as I was aware, one of the major roadblocks to that was the

Nah, after you defeat the Onett Chief of Police, they open up the roadblock down the path that leads to Twoson.

Re:Efficiency Considerations (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798561)

If the summery is right about what laser they used and the energy use for such (400J), and the count of the particles (~100 billion), and we were able to capture all energy from the annihilation (E=mc^2), we're looking at about 0.004% efficiency.

We're a looooooooooooooong way from having antimatter as a viable energy storage solution.

Lasers (4, Funny)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797971)

Is there anything they can't do?

Re:Lasers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798117)

ya, but luckily everything they cant do is covered by nanotubes

Mod parent up (1)

shrikel (535309) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798349)

Yeah. Now just imagine a nanotube laser! That's probably what modified photon torpedos are made out of.

Re:Lasers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798335)

Is there anything they can't do?

Fix Vista?

so does this mean free energy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25797973)

i've heard ufo conspiracy believers say that when you combine anti-matter and matter you get instant energy.

bob lazar http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDwQssm86xo&feature=related

http://www.astro.virginia.edu/~jh8h/glossary/antimatter.htm

Re:so does this mean free energy? (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798051)

No. We will not be able to get energy out of this than it costs to generate the anti-matter. With regards to energy, at best this will be a energy storage device. However, its unique nature may prove useful for various future applications - now that this sort of potential is available, people will start to think about how to use it.

Science Journalism FAIL (1, Informative)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797975)

The anti-matter, also known as positrons...

*Sigh*

I guess the PR agent who wrote the story didn't even read the Wikipedia page on antimatter. [wikipedia.org] Either that, or he/she just isn't a good writer -- that statement implies that all positrons are anti-matter and all anti-matter is positrons. Only the first statement is true.

Reading skills FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798083)

They said "The anti-matter", so it means the anti-matter that they produced, not anti-matter in general.

Science Journalism Critique FAIL (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798099)

Either that, or he/she just isn't a good writer -- that statement implies that all positrons are anti-matter and all anti-matter is positrons. Only the first statement is true.

Nice try, but not true. Your argument would be correct if the statement had read "Anti-matter, also know as positrons...", but it does not. Rather the author says "The antimiater, also known as positrons...".

This sentence only refers to the antimatter created during this experiment. And, near as I can tell, positrons are indeed the only form of antimatter produced in the experiment.

The lesson here - don't post smug messages denouncing someones incorrect grammar when their grammar is in fact correct. Check your facts.

Re:Science Journalism FAIL (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798111)

that statement implies that all positrons are anti-matter and all anti-matter is positrons.

Okay, I guess I don't understand anti-matter as well as I thought I did, and reading the link didn't help. So, I'll ask - why is the first half of that statement not true?

Re:Science Journalism FAIL (1)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798291)

I never took particle, so I can't go into the same depth as some of my friends could. But basically, there's this whole zoo of particles most of which you've heard of. Electrons, protons, etc. Most* of these particles have a corresponding antiparticle. The proton has the antiproton. The neutron has the antineutron. And the electron has the positron. If it helps, you can think of it as the "mirror universe" of the particle zoo -- the antiproton is a proton with an evil streak and a goatee.

Matter is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, among other things. By the same token, antimatter is made up of antiprotons, antineutrons, and positrons. The statement "Anti-matter, also known as positrons..." is as ridiculous as the statement "Matter, also known as electrons...". It's either a scientific or grammatical error, and I can't figure out which would bother me more.

Anyway, I hope that helps.

* AFAIK, bosons don't have antiparticle equivalents, only fermions do. But unless you're a physicist or really interested in the subject, don't worry about the distinction between bosons and fermions. I won't help you get laid, that's for sure.

Re:Science Journalism FAIL (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798303)

The first half is true, as he said. And it doesn't imply that all antimatter is positrons, merely that all antimatter created by this process is positrons.

Re:Science Journalism FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798375)

i think he means that anti-matter encompass several things while positrons specifics a specific type of antimatter. if i remember correctly, (it's been a while), anti-matter is matter that has the opposite charge then normal; proton having a negative charge and electrons having positive charges. positron probably only refers to one type of them.

Re:Science Journalism FAIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798219)

The anti-matter, also known as positrons...

vs.

Anti-matter, also known as positrons...

Teh English lungage be your friends!

Hot plasma jets! (4, Funny)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25797981)

The anti-matter, also known as positrons, shoots out of the target in a cone-shaped plasma 'jet.'

Apparently, it seems I can create anti-matter from eating too much TacoBell.

uhm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25797991)

there goes the galaxy

All or Nothing (2, Interesting)

Jheralack (1067056) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798011)

I always wondered if they could assemble enough anti-matter to perform a Cavendish experiment if it would prove to be repulsive to regular matter gravitationally. I know the current theory doesn't call for it, but hey, that's why we do the experiments. Very symmetrical (in comparison to the electrostatic force equation), and very cool, if it turned out to be true. On the other hand, somebody should stop these fools now. The next thing they will want to do is bottle the stuff, and regular nukes would be toys in comparison.

Re:All or Nothing (2, Interesting)

maugle (1369813) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798087)

Oh, that's a fun thought. On the other hand, I don't really see anyone trying to build an antimatter bomb any time soon, since just keeping one on hand would be incredibly risky:

Something goes wrong storing a nuke: Area sealed off, that particular spot possibly radioactive
Something goes wrong storing an antimatter bomb: Area vaporized, that particular spot the center of a city-sized crater

Wow PET scans anyone? (2, Interesting)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798037)

This may open the possibility of cheaper PET scans. Currently, the limitation of PET scans is the answer to this question: "How far away is the nearest Cyclotron?" The half life of the radioactive material used in Positron Emission Tomography, typically Flourine-18, is ~110 minutes. With a laser that can generate positrons, you could have a mobile PET scan unit that would only need to rely on being able to connect to the grid.

BTM

Re:Wow PET scans anyone? (1)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798207)

I believe, although I am certainly no expert, that hospitals and places that do PET scans do not take delivery of the radioactive materials with such short half-lives directly; they keep on hand material that will decay into the materials they need, which allows them to keep it on hand for longer.

Re:Wow PET scans anyone? (1)

krysith (648105) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798271)

No, I don't think so. F-18 is usually used as part of FDG (Flourodeoxyglucose), a biologically active molecule, so that the positrons are emitted from where glucose is consumed. Having random positrons flying throughout your body won't make for a very effective PET scan.

Also, wouldn't it be more effective to just use Ga-68 if you are far from a cyclotron? It has a 68 minute half-life and is produced from Ge-68 generators, which have a 271 day half-life. I have a NIST traceable sample of Ge-68/Ga-68 in equilibrium, which we use to calibrate the F-18 dose calibrators,because there is no way to get a NIST calibrated F-18 sample.

interesting implications (1)

erbbysam (964606) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798085)

From what I can gather from the comments and the article, this could become a stable fissionable reaction which would, hypothetically(assuming you can build up and store this stuff) produce an almost unlimited amount of energy? or is the gold(if there are no alternatives)/energy consumptions be too great?

Wow! (2, Funny)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798127)

I am hoping that they can produce enough anti-matter to make a weapon of some kind. An anti-matter bomb would be many many thousands of times more powerful than even a hydrogen bomb, and it gives me great hope to think that a bomb that huge would make America even safer than thousands of nuclear warheads already make it.

Oh wait, that was just me getting into touch with my inner-Teller.

What about gold-nanoparticles instead (1, Interesting)

ancient_kings (1000970) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798133)

of a pinhead? I know making gold nano-particles can be done by anyone, anywhere. It is very simple to do. They are much smaller than a pinhead and their arrangement can easily be made so that the surface area is billions of times larger than a pinhead. Now, can a simple pointer laser set off positrons? If not, how about a green laser? If not, how about shining the green laser through a $600 frequency doubler crystal onto those gold nano-particles?

Re:What about gold-nanoparticles instead (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798397)

I tried that last summer and I can tell you shouldn't do this. My parents still have a hard time believing they lived there for 12 years and never noticed the 500m wide lake behind the house.

Where's the boom? (3, Funny)

TheBlunderbuss (852707) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798181)

Where are the anti matter particles now?
I would think they're touching matter, since they didn't just harmlessly disappear.

Isn't there supposed to be an enormous explosion when matter and anti-matter meet?
Or is that fiction? or friction? Or fission? Or fusion? or confusion?

Re:Where's the boom? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798353)

My understanding is, they probably did harmlessly disappear -- matter/antimatter annihilation turns matter directly into photons. Intuitively, I assumed a positron and an electron will turn into two photons -- Wikipedia confirms that this is what usually happens, though there can be more.

So, billions of particles means probably billions of photons.

Now, Google the number of photons put out by a simple 100-watt light bulb...

The point is, well, look at how many atoms are in a thimble -- and each of those atoms is going to have more than one electron. Take just the electrons in a thimble-full of matter, convert them to antimatter, and you have a much bigger boom.

So, weaponizing this would definitely be more dangerous than weaponizing nukes. I always thought it would look cool to see a planet cracked in half, but I also kind of want to live...

Re:Where's the boom? (4, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798627)

You are fantastically overestimating how much they made. 100 billion particles seems like a lot, but it's actually only about 9.1x10^-17 grams (91 attograms). You could likely be physically standing right in front of the thing, in the middle of the spray of particles, and not notice anything.

RHPS (1)

winphreak (915766) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798201)

Why do I find it funny that this just makes the anti-matter laser in Rocky Horror Picture Show somewhat... feasible?

Rediculous.

Kaboom? (1)

BriggsBU (1138021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798317)

To quote my favorite Martian...

"Where was the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom!"

Its time (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798369)

Intel should use those lasers to start to make processors that use positrons instead of electrons. Robots based on those positronic "brains" will have a big potential, and could last eons.

Re:Its time (2, Funny)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#25798607)

That sounds dangerous. I, for one, am not willing to welcome our new robotic overlords! (Or regular human overlords with robot armies). Intel would need to come up with a scheme to keep the robots from harming people. Some sort of set of axioms... rules... laws, even... that would apply to all the robots they made, in order to keep them in line. Otherwise it would never work.

flupbucket (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25798623)

Sounds as legitimate as cold fusion. Remember that one?

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