The big bang blip: Solving the mystery of why matter exists

 作者:赏随     |      日期:2019-03-15 04:04:05
Ian Hobson By Elizabeth Landau IT’S an odd thought that the banana on your kitchen counter, squished in your lunch bag or tucked away in your desk drawer is the embodiment of one of the universe’s great mysteries, just waiting to be unpeeled. Whatever its state of ripeness, that banana is made of particles of matter, just like you: its intrinsic matteryness is why you can see, feel and taste it. What you don’t see is what a banana does 15 times a day or so. Blip! It produces a particle of something else, something that vanishes almost instantaneously in a flash of light. That something else is antimatter. The prediction, and subsequent discovery, of antimatter counts as a great triumph of physics. It represents a whole mirror world of particles, identical in mass to those of normal matter, but with opposite electrical charge. But it seems rather an afterthought. In our neck of the woods, antimatter particles are only produced during interactions of high-energy cosmic rays in the atmosphere, or in radioactive decays – such as those from the tiny amount of radioactive potassium-40 every banana contains. Photography: Tatsuro Nishimura, Styling: Ali Nardi In one sense that’s unsurprising, given that antimatter and matter “annihilate” whenever they meet, giving out a puff of energy in the form of light. In our matter-dominated world, antimatter simply doesn’t stand a chance. But for physicists studying the fundamentals of the material world, the imbalance is deeply unsettling. According to their best-laid theories,