Science & Tech

Why antimatter matters so much

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Scientists coming close to making quantities of antimatter

In 1995, experimenters made nine or 10 atoms of antihydrogen at the Center for European Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland. Since then, researchers have sought a method for making more antimatter, which would allow them to test fundamental theories of the universe. A team led by Gerald Gabrielse, Harvard professor of physics, is close to making a mass of antihydrogen atoms. These atoms would be trapped in a special apparatus where they can be held long enough to accurately measure their properties. How close is the team to achieving its goal? “Nine Harvard post-doctoral fellows and graduate students, plus collaborators from other universities, are breathing down its neck,” said Gabrielse in August 2001. “… I won’t stick my neck out far enough to give a date, but I’d be delighted if we made it before the end of this year.” Meanwhile, Alexander Dalgarno, Phillips Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, and Bernard Zygelman, a physicist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, want to go one step further; they want to mix matter and antimatter to create the first molecule of antimatter.