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Will Antimatter Obey Gravity’s Pull?

What matter and antimatter might look like annihilating one another. Credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

What matter and antimatter might look like annihilating one another. Credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

What goes up must always come down, right? Well, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) wants to test if that principle applies to antimatter.

Antimatter, most simply speaking, is a mirror image of matter. The concept behind it is that the particles that make up matter have an opposite counterpart, antiparticles. For example, if you consider that electrons are negatively charged, an antielectron would be positively charged.

This sounds like science fiction, but as NASA says, it is “real stuff.” In past experiments, CERN’s particle accelerator has created antiprotons, positrons and even antihydrogen. Properly harnessed, antimatter could be used for applications ranging from rocketry to medicine, NASA added. But we’ll need to figure out its nature first.

The experiment CERN described snares antihydrogen atoms in a powerful magnetic field (inside a container) for several minutes. As the researchers let these atoms go, they can watch on which walls the atoms crash into. The experiment is called ALPHA, for Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus.

While researchers weren’t originally looking to learn more about gravity, the team working on the experiments came to realize their data “might be sensitive to gravitational effects,” CERN stated.

To be sure, these atoms would have a bit of energy when they are released, so one wouldn’t expect them to hit the ground right away. But what the scientists are doing now are figuring out, with reference to how the antihydrogen atoms moved, what the limit might be on “anomalous gravitational effects.”

The scientists have made new use of the ALPHA data they collected in 2010 and 2011 for other purposes, and now plan to do more experiments in 2014 with gravity specifically in mind.

So far, they’ve been able to begin constraining the gravitational to inertial mass ratio (the particle’s reaction to gravity), but it will take further work to learn more about how gravity affects these particles more generally.

“Based on our data, we can exclude the possibility that the gravitiational mass of antihydrogen is more than 110 times its inertial mass, or that it falls upwards with a gravitational mass more than 65 times its inertial mass,” CERN said on its website.

Already, though, the scientists are starting to talk about what could happen if antimatter behaves differently than matter in the face of gravity.

If antimatter fell up, stated Joel Fajans, an ALPHA physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, this could mean that gravity does not universally affect all types of particles.

“In the unlikely event that antimatter falls upwards, we would have to revise our view of the way the universe works,” he said. “We’ve taken the first steps toward a direct experimental test of questions that physicists and non-physicists have been wondering about for more than 50 years.”

Source: CERN

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • "Me" May 1, 2013, 6:29 PM

    The depiction above w/antimatter w/matter is so powerful. Imagine if we could harness that kind of power to run our automobiles, trains, motor bikes, planes, homes & business’s? I am not keen at all about the applications needed to acquire anti matter/matter to work w/& for different systems.
    But the powering & running of all the systems I have mentioned. Would completely nullify green house gases & reverse climate change quite quickly to a minimum.
    There are other areas that will have a direct positive impact on the human race…take care all.

    • I3VI5 May 2, 2013, 4:38 AM

      Yes, antimater flying cars are cool, up to the moment you have an accident. Then BOOM!!!

      • "Me" May 2, 2013, 5:12 AM

        Agreed! BOOM! Its just a heart felt thought. There were things 150 to 200 yrs ago that were considered so outrageous. They came to pass. like cell phone, Jet planes, etc’s.. . Maybe 150 yrs+ yrs from now they just might do the antimatter application?? I have no clue if the time line is correct or not. I doubt it, but one never knows. It could take another 2,500 yrs from today being doable w/antimatter/matter transportation(s). Actually I like the transporter on Star-Trek myself :-)… . .take care & Blessings l3Vl5.

        • gopher652003 May 2, 2013, 2:18 PM

          I’d suggest that it is more likely that eventually we’ll work out a form of halfway efficient wireless power. No need to carry dangerous reactors, volatile liquid or gaseous fuel, or heavy batteries around then.

          • "Me" May 2, 2013, 4:49 PM

            I totally agree. Well said ;-)… .

        • I3VI5 May 3, 2013, 8:09 AM

          Sorry “ME” but we will never have flying cars powered by anti matter. It’s not the same as the move from the telegraph to the wireless phone today. 1kg of anti matter has more energy that 1,000 Hiroshima size nuclear bombs. And to levitate the car (if antimatter falls “up”) you need the same amount of mass as normal matter, so you need around 1.5 tons. So basically, one car accident and you have nuclear winter. lol

          We will most likely have flying cars in the next 50 years, however they will be powered by smth else.

          • "Me" May 3, 2013, 4:37 PM

            Hello l3Vi5, How the heck are you? I am good to go. If you read my earlier post to this discussion. You would of read at the very end of the post(a few upwards)this===>”THERE’S NOTHING WRONG W/DREAMING OF SUCH A REALITY”. Get it now? By the way. Do you have a crystal ball for futuristic happenings? Nope. 2,500 yrs from now is 487 yrs short of the 1/2 way point of the year 5,000. So in 2,987 years from now your clueless of what the earth & sciences will have. Today it is an unconceivable thought. lol@nuclear winter w/1 car accident. Damn, hope you have GREAT auto insurance…lol. I know! What about a bubble force-field around each car?? ..lol ..you take care.

          • I3VI5 May 5, 2013, 1:09 AM

            ME, it’s not my fault that you don’t understand the topic. You can dream all day long but it does not negate the fact that you cannot move around with the equivalent of 42,000,000,000,000 kg of TNT under your hood.

            As for the “”nuclear winter”, do the calculations and you will see that this kind of explosion is enough to cause it and since there would be billions of cars around the world, you cannot have this many points of failure.

            But anyways, I see that you like to disagree just for the sake of disagreeing since otherwise you would have read the last part of my post “We will most likely have flying cars in the next 50 years, however they will be powered by smth else.”.

            And also, the next time you reply, I would really appreciate it if you could write more clearly instead of rambling your thoughts as they come.

          • "Me" May 5, 2013, 2:17 AM

            Yes, I agree 100% w/you w/today’s technology w/1 flying antimatter car blowing up. It would cause all the other 100+million flying cars w/matter/antimatter to blow up together. Yes===> BANG! Earth as we know it, would look so lifeless. Again, Yes, I agree w/you. I remember back in the late 1960’s reading either Albert I.’s paper to either Yale or Harvard, or someone else in Yale or Harvard explained to Albert I. in another science review/paper his Theory of Rel.-E=MC2 is “infinity” when said & done.

            Anyways.even though the math says NO today. Is it possible in the yr 5000AD some technology then finds out about what a black-hole factually is & has? In a black-hole all physics are out the window, right? Yes, I know you agree. It just could be possible in the yr 5000AD anti-matter & matter could be brought together with what we find in black-holes. Again, yes yes yes I agree, It looks so highly unlikely. We just do not know “FULLY” what is in a black hole. Sorry I do jump around explaining a subject matter. I just figured most in here can obtain my meanings. When I type at work I must do a whole lot of abbreviations & articulating is not needed. I will try to be more attentive to the needs of articulating better to others in here. Again, I still say it is impossible w/anti matter today. But there is that “but” again, in 2987 yrs from now…..;-)… …take care lV3l5 :-)… .

          • "Me" May 5, 2013, 4:19 AM

            PS: A question from a student to you. – Hello Sir. What if someone could build an electric car having 4 sets of 4-pack-batteries.in this electric car-(16 total)-. There would be 1 generator or alternator for each wheel of the electric car powering up their individual 4-battery packs. You’d already have 1 set of 4-batteries already powered up to drive. After driving for a while. The car’s first set of 4-batteries is low. I feel the left front wheel already is powered up from being in motion could switch its power to the electric engine automatically. On & so it would go automatically switching over to keep the electric car moving without having to stop and charging the car 1 set of batteries. With 1-set of batteries for each wheel powering up their own set of batteries. The electric car would sty charged up constantly., correct? Of course, you’d need all the necessary switches and equipment (12 volts)along with the generators/alternators to keep all the batteries powered up for the electric motor to have constant power to start up and stay in motion. What do you think Sir? I am 23.

  • lcrowell May 1, 2013, 9:24 PM

    Of course this is worth testing, but of course it makes no sense to think antimatter falls up. Consider the following thought experiment. We have a box with perfectly reflecting walls that contains a gamma ray photon and a nucleus. The gamma ray photon can collide with the nucleus to produce an electron-positron pair. The e and e^+ then will have some recurrence rate where they are absorbed by the nucleus to reform the gamma ray. This is a sort of idealized form of Rabi oscillation. This box is sealed and placed on a scale. If positrons (antielectrons) fell up the scale would then register an oscillation in the mass. Remember that the photon by E = mc^2 has an effective mass. That would be certainly unexpected.

    BTW, this would form a sort of quantum measurement, for the gamma ray photon and the ee^+ pairs are superposed quantum states.

    LC

    • Grimbold May 1, 2013, 11:05 PM

      As you say, it’s worth rigorously testing the things we are confident of. It guards against nasty surprises later on.

    • Bob Sireno May 2, 2013, 5:09 AM

      Worth testing at a reasonable price, yes. If warping of spacetime creates gravity (wells) then the mirror image of the warped spacetime is still gravity. There is no antigravity except in science fiction. Now, let’s prove it.

    • "Me" May 2, 2013, 5:21 AM

      LC – Wouldn’t the recurrence rate fluctuate & be unstable? ME

    • "Me" May 2, 2013, 8:23 PM

      No reply from LC? Whoa! I’m too old for that!…lol. Wouldn’t the recurrence rate fluctuate & be unstable? A bit of a mental block w/this one. ME

  • Todd Coolen May 1, 2013, 11:50 PM

    I was basically shunned from this site for proposing such a thing in 2006. Now it’s being considered. Pfft! Same as the article posting April 19th. Change the gravity sign. I propose an amendment to Newton’s second law and E=mc^2 without changing the rules. It just adds the antigravity to them. I see everything in our universe as a mirror. I have a website and PDF file if you like to search. I’m not saying I’m right. I just had to put my 2 cents in.

    • Peter Marino May 2, 2013, 1:24 AM

      Yes, you’re not the only one either the Italian physicist Massimo Villata wrote a paper on antigravity. Go to his site MassimoVillata.com to learn more.

      • Peter Marino May 2, 2013, 1:28 AM

        Maybe if antigravity does exist from antimatter then the whole dark matter/dark energy description is a misunderstanding of antimatter and antigravity. Everyone in the physics field seems to believe all antimatter was destroyed soon after the big bang but if antigravity exists it can keep matter and antimatter from interacting. Especially if antigravity is the cause of inflation.

      • "Me" May 2, 2013, 4:50 PM

        Didn’t realize that. Thanks indirectly. ..take care.

    • Peter Marino May 2, 2013, 1:31 AM

      Also check out SwarmKnowledge.com where I interviewed Adam Freeman about some of this.

    • "Me" May 2, 2013, 3:03 AM

      I also am shunned but I read & post in here at least 1 per-day if I choose to do so. They cannot handle certain subjects. Their ‘closed minds’ cannot seem to handle certain things w/an open mind. What I was proposing was the unknown areas of science. Most haven’t even looked into the possibilities. Heck Todd, put in what ever floats your boat in here no matter the subject. I do. . …take care man.

      • Todd Coolen May 3, 2013, 7:35 PM

        Sorry to hear this happens frequently. I just like to browse and don’t normally post… here. I was told last off that I wasn’t allowed to post my website so I remain in the refrain. You take care too!

        • "Me" May 3, 2013, 10:06 PM

          Yes, they pick & choose websites. I can see why if it is offensive etc.. . But ask some of these one way people about the unknown sciences & they freak. If they only knew the implications if they would study w/honest forth coming scientific probing. They’d find things that could pertain to other scientific disciplines I laugh & say what I feel anyway. Just keep on keeping on. You be kool & take care Tood.

          • Todd Coolen May 5, 2013, 1:49 AM

            Reminds me of the time that I tried emailing a prominent of the math field if they have access to a certain U+Vi of the 1/2+bi of RH (which I knew would be a cinch for he/she) and after 2 or three emails back and forth, I gave up. I admitted that I was not explaining it properly. The math field is even harder. I have been working on RH for 30 years now (with success ;) — not the answer, but a huge crack. |The math is the necessity of science.

            After all, there are only about 5 people in the world working on this problem.

            The only one that can change things is… YOU! Never give up your dream! I don’t!

          • "Me" May 5, 2013, 2:38 AM

            That’ta boy! Give ‘em all you got! I do! Yes, I also skip from here to there trying to articulate a subject line. I end up screwing up, because of the work I do jumping & abbreviating. I don’t need to be so complete in typing explainations at work.
            Yes, math is the key & is the universal language of the universe. My theory is in black-holes yrs from now. Physics as we know it is completely out the window in a black-hole. Suppose human kind in 5000AD(in 2987 yrs)finds out exactly what is in one of those monsters. The skies the limit. Math would be a complete freak out to the max. I just never like or want to say “never”. Take care my friend ;-).. .

    • gopher652003 May 3, 2013, 3:56 PM

      Simply saying that the “sign” of gravity gets flipped kinda misses the point of what’s being looked at with this research. What’s being looked at here is whether or not antimatter responds in exactly the same way to the gravity of another object (Earth in this case) as normal matter, not whether or not antimatter gives off an anti-gravity effect, which might be hard to detect with only a handful of fast moving anti-atoms to measure.

      What’s interesting about this research isn’t that it could detect the possibility that antimatter will give off anti-gravity, it’s whether or not antimatter differs even slightly in its response to gravity. Any divination would be unexpected – and awesome as it would lead the way to new physics.

      • Todd Coolen May 3, 2013, 7:30 PM

        That (-G) was in reference to another article. Sorry for the confusion. I saw a side article and kinda grouped it together in one comment. Just frustrated at that moment. I wish them all the success in the world.

  • Dilip G. Banhatti May 2, 2013, 6:01 AM

    I’m rather puzzled at this news item and the background. Didn’t LEP have electron storage ring + positron storage ring? If antimatter had negative gravitational mass, positron beam in its storage ring would have behaved differently, and we’d’ve known about it long back!

  • Derek Mathias May 2, 2013, 7:18 AM

    If it somehow turns out antimatter causes antigravity, then that would mean matter and antimatter to repel each other, which would help prevent mutual annihilation, which would imply all the supposedly annihilated antimatter isn’t likely gone. If antimatter has other strange properties, like not being directly observable, then is it possible that dark energy is really “just” antimatter? I’m no physicist, so I don’t know if this is even remotely plausible…but the idea just naturally comes to mind.

    • Olaf2 May 2, 2013, 5:02 PM

      We do know that anti matter has the same amount of gravitational force as the matter. The only difference is the charge. But it is interesting to confirm this by measuring it instead of just assuming.

      • Se Ba May 3, 2013, 1:33 AM

        As you said, gravity depends of matter, not of charge. Both have positive matter, so they should not repel to each other

  • Aqua4U May 2, 2013, 5:13 PM

    NASA’s present take on this subject can be found at:

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/technology/warp/antistat.html

    Keywords in this link are: “…not been experimentally confirmed…” I wish the folks over at CERN all the best of luck because I really, really want ‘dark energy and dark matter’ to ‘go away’ or at least be explained rationally. This COULD be the ‘clincher’ that does that? Hope so…

    Personally I like the idea that anti matter exists in the next dimension over and ‘leaks’ into our space/time due to the effects of gravity and spin. WHERE those ‘leaks’ occur is where gravity creates spinning quantum scale ‘frame contacts’ between several of an infinite number of parallel universes. BANG! Thought does not exist as solid matter, nor is it restricted to three dimensions in our universe…

  • Adam G. Freeman May 4, 2013, 1:24 AM

    I put together a website which explains how space travel is possible via anti-matter ==> http://www.spacetravelispossible.com

    Believe It!

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