x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hadron Collider gets to the heart of anti-matter

We can now behold the first building blocks of anti-matter with the latest developments at Cern's Large Hadron Collider.

It is a paradox that to view the smallest bits of matter you need a massive machine: the Large Hadron Collider, lodged in a 27km circular tunnel on the border between Switzerland and France.

Researchers at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) have been on the track of anti-matter. The Standard Model of particle physics maintains that for every particle - neutron, proton, electron and little zany bits - there are mirror image particles of anti-matter. The problem is that whenever two opposing particles meet, they obliterate each other.

But now Cern scientists have announced that they have trapped 38 antihydrogen atoms in place, each for a fraction of a second. Eventually they will be able to make detailed measurements of antihydrogen, allowing them to compare matter and antimatter - thanks to the continual working of the Large Hadron Collider.

True, it has cost an eye-watering $4.4 billion so far what with cost overruns, engineering delays and maintenance shutdowns. But what does that matter when we behold the first building blocks of antimatter? What's the stuff good for? To answer fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, going all the way back to the Big Bang. Why do we live in a world of matter rather than anti-matter? Some day, we'll know.