Our universe shouldn’t exist, but we’re slowly learning why it does.

You probably know the following story: 13.8 billion years ago, the Big Bang connected to stars and galaxies, which led to planets and life, and ultimately to you and me. However, there is a clear gap in this chronicle, and the opening is so large that solving it will shake the real knowledge.

Stefan Ulmer, a physicist for baryon anti-baryon symmetry experiments led by the European Council’s RIKEN, said: For nuclear research.

But … here we are playing Wardle Because we are paying taxes, our laws of physics are wrong or most of the metaphysical puzzles are missing.

In an army of scientists looking for those works, Ulmer has spent years studying antimatter, the seed of the existential crisis in our universe.In a dissertation Published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, He reports an update: antimatter does not react to gravity like normal matter.

Don’t worry if that last bit flies completely overhead, it’s all together.

First of all, what is antimatter?

From the sun to the device reading this article, everything is made up of the usual matter we know and love, made up of atoms made up of positive protons and negative electrons. The Big Bang caused all this problem, and the rest is literally history.

Here’s a strange part: our universe also holds a small amount of antimatter composed of atoms constructed of. Negative With proton positive Electronic. It’s like a kid of a big bang rebel.

Both matter and antimatter are made up of similar atoms. Protons (and neutrons) are in the center, and electrons are swimming in the outer shell. Antimatter has just the opposite charge.

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These two also have cracks. When they come in contact, they completely annihilate each other due to the opposite charge. Bold particles must remain in a vacuum, as antimatter particles in a normal material environment quickly become “poufs”, even when scientists create antimatter for experiments.

This incompatibility will be huge An existential problem – and it’s not just that one day you can’t meet an antimatter counterpart without basically exploding.

There must have been a particle war

Physicists use two main frameworks in explaining the behavior of particles. Standard model Particle physics and relativistic particles Quantum field theory.. Each is very solid in itself, and combining them can lead to embarrassing results.

Matter and its enemies are the front and back of the same coin.

“The structure of space and time basically means that matter and antimatter are exactly symmetric in principle, that is, they have the same mass, opposite charges, opposite magnetic moments, etc. That means. “

If that is true, the Big Bang should have a 50/50 chance of forming either. and, 50/50 distribution What happened, antimatter and matter should have completely destroyed each other. (Do you remember the rift?) In such a particle war, the universe wouldn’t have. Any Matter. The universe does not hold the sun or the earth and will certainly lack humanity. After the battle, only the remaining kind of energy would have remained.

But the sun, the earth, and humans do exist.


The earth seen from the moon in 1969.


For some reason, the universe shows orders of magnitude more matter than antimatter. This is a cosmic mystery known as baryon asymmetry, which is the origin of the name of Ulmer’s laboratory. Did the antimatter produced by the Big Bang disappear? Was there nothing in the first place?

“We don’t understand the origin of matter and the asymmetry of antimatter,” Ulmer simply says.

The part where it comes together

The standard model’s prediction of the exponential distribution of 50/50 depends on the exact symmetry of the particles, so finding a way to break the estimated parallel could eventually solve the mystery. there is.

“For example, if a proton is a little heavier than an antiproton, it will quickly explain why it has more matter than antimatter,” Ulmer said. It will quite clarify why the universe exists.

Let’s return to Ulmer’s research results. Both matter and antimatter react to gravity in the same way, excluding some options in the ledger that may violate symmetry.

Free, I said I’d be together.

Proton Symphony

Ulmer’s experiments began with a fascinating device called a penning trap. This is a small metal device that detects the cyclotron frequency of a particle, the frequency at which something moves in a magnetic field.


Image of Ulmer’s penning trap.


Researchers placed laboratory-generated antiprotons inside, measured their cyclotron frequencies, and then popped negatively charged hydrogen ions to measure the same parameters. (Ulmer used negatively charged hydrogen ions, or atoms with one proton and two electrons, to represent normal matter because it matches the negative charge of antiprotons).

It’s easiest to think of an experiment from a musical point of view.

The Penning Trap pickup system is similar to that found on electric guitars, Ulmer says. “In that sense, it’s a very musical experiment,” he explained as a guitarist himself.

“The frequency range is a bit different, but we’re hearing sounds of things that don’t exist in space,” he added. “With our current ability to listen, [matter and antimatter] Sounds the same. “

Particles play the same melody as needed. This also means that they have the same notes. Also known as, the cyclotron frequencies of these particles were the same, and many of the resulting properties, such as the charge-to-mass ratio, were also the same. all Of these similarities, the list of possible material and antimatter symmetry violations has been removed.

Space as a laboratory

However, the researcher’s ultimate goal was to use cyclotron frequency data to see if the antimatter song changes with adjustments in the gravitational field.Specifically, they Einstein’s weak equivalence principle – This applies to normal problems – it works on antimatter.

Einstein’s principle shows that all objects in the gravitational field operate independently of their inherent properties. For example, a piano and wings fall to the earth at the same acceleration in the absence of external forces such as wind.

Intuitively, the opposite charge of antimatter Forced to “fall down” Or at least there is some variation in behavior.

For this aspect of the experiment, Ulmer utilized several space experimental devices: the Earth and the Sun. “As the Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical orbit, the gravitational potential of our laboratory changes as a function of time,” Ulmer said.

So he and his research team measured the cyclotron frequencies, also known as melody, of both antiproton and negative hydrogen ions at different times. After 24,000 comparisons, they concluded that both particle types reacted in the same way – with very very high certainty.

Einstein’s principle acts on antimatter. In fact, it doesn’t turn up.


A graph detailing when the Ulmer team measured the particles.

Stephen Ulmer

“We will definitely improve the microscope. If these experiments reveal unexpected things, it will change our basic understanding of the laws of nature,” Ulmer said.

Philosophical consequences of antimatter

For the sake of discussion, let’s say someone finally finds a contradiction between antimatter and matter. What does that mean for us?

Violating the symmetry of matter and antimatter means CPT invariant. C stands for charge, P stands for parity, and T stands for time. In a nutshell, the rules state that if any of these are reversed, the universe will remain essentially the same. The world wouldn’t change if time went backwards instead of positives, if everything was left-handed instead of right-handed, and if, as you guessed, all problems were responsible for the opposite. ..

If it turns out that the antimatter is not the same as a normal substance, C is violated. And if the CPT invariance is broken, the causality may no longer hold, scientists say. “I think this will probably bring more philosophical changes to our thinking,” Ulmer said. “It is comparable to what happened in the 1920s when quantum mechanics was developed.”

He added, “Up to that point, people thought everything was deterministic. In quantum theory, things are no longer deterministic by definition. So this is how people understand themselves. Will change. “

Even more troublesome is the recognition that we already know that antimatter depends on something because the universe seems to exist. In a sense, we already know that we have to adjust our perspective on reality.

We are waiting for the right moment. Our universe shouldn’t exist, but we’re slowly learning why it does.

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