The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter

The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter

The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter

The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter

Synopsis


In the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang lingers a question at the heart of our very existence: why does the universe contain matter but almost no antimatter? The laws of physics tell us that equal amounts of matter and antimatter were produced in the early universe--but then something odd happened. Matter won out over antimatter; had it not, the universe today would be dark and barren.


But how and when did this occur? In The Mystery of the Missing Antimatter, Helen Quinn and Yossi Nir guide readers into the very heart of this mystery--and along the way offer an exhilarating grand tour of cutting-edge physics.

Excerpt

In the beginning—what was the beginning? Every culture asks this question. Traditionally each finds some answer, a creation myth, a cosmology. These stories satisfy an innate human longing to know about our origins. Only recently has our scientific understanding of the history of the Universe progressed to the point that we can begin to formulate a scientifically based answer—a scientific cosmology. We know that the Universe is evolving and we understand many facets of its history. We know its age, about fourteen billion years! We can ask, and often even answer, detailed questions about the very earliest times, times immediately after the Big Bang. We can test our ideas by comparing detailed observation of the Universe to detailed simulation of its evolution built on our modern understanding of physics. Today our technology for probing physics on both the tiniest and the largest imaginable scales can take us closer to the beginning of the known Universe than ever before. Much has been learned. Big questions remain; each new answer reveals new questions. What a wondrous time this is for cosmology.

Our story centers on a question that links cosmology and particle physics. Experiments in high energy physics laboratories have demonstrated that, in addition to the stuff we call matter, there is another set of stuff. It is just like matter except with a reversal of charges. It interacts, with itself and with matter, in ways that we understand. Physicists call this stuff antimatter. We make it and study it in our laboratories, but find very little of it in nature. The laws of physics for antimatter are . . .

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