Mind & Matter


The Other Matter

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CERN traps antimatter atoms for 16 minutes. Photo courtesy of CERN.


All the attention to physical materials makes it easy to forget that matter is only half the story. According to the Big Bang theory, the universe was created from equal amounts of matter and antimatter. However, scientists are baffled by the fact that antimatter is so hard to find today.

Recently, researchers at Switzerland’s CERN laboratories were able to entrap antimatter atoms for over 16 minutes using the complex’s famed antiproton decelerator. The first serious breakthrough for the six year-old ALPHA project, the analysis of trapped antihydrogen atoms should elucidate some of the mysteries of antimatter and its disappearance.

As if the concept of antimatter weren’t strange enough, one of the more bizarre related ideas is the so-called CPT theory, which proposes a second universe that is parallel and inversely related to our own. The CPT theory hypothesizes that "a particle moving forward through time in our universe should be indistinguishable from an antiparticle moving backwards through time in a mirror universe.” While this theory has yet to be proven, it hints at the bizarre nature of antimatter, and suggests that CERN’s recent accomplishment may yield fascinating new discoveries.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.