“If you see an antimatter version of yourself running towards you, think twice before embracing.” –J. Richard Gott III

Everywhere we look in the Universe, we find that planets, stars, galaxies, and even the gas between them are all made of matter and not antimatter. Yet as far as we know, the laws of nature are symmetric between matter and antimatter: you can’t create or destroy one without the other.

Image credit: Karen Teramura, UHIfA / NASA.

Image credit: Karen Teramura, UHIfA / NASA.

This question — why the Universe is full of matter and not antimatter — is one of the greatest unsolved problems in theoretical physics. Yet it’s also, conceivably, the one most likely to fall in the coming year! There are four compelling scenarios that might solve this question, that of baryogenesis, that theoretical physics has uncovered, and there’s a good chance that the LHC’s run II will be sensitive to two of them.

Image credit: E. Siegel, from his book, Beyond The Galaxy.

Image credit: E. Siegel, from his book, Beyond The Galaxy.

Come read the full story and listen to an expanded version on our podcast over at Forbes!

Comments

  1. #1 Omega Centauri
    December 31, 2015

    It sounds a bit snide, but if “anti-matter” had won out, we would have called it normal-matter.

  2. #2 Schroedinger's Wombat
    December 31, 2015

    I was antimatter before it was mainstream

  3. #3 PJ
    Perth, west Oz
    December 31, 2015

    No, not snide. Our nomenclature is a way of expressing ideas in terms more easily understood by others. Whether a pole of a battery, for instance, is considered positive, or negative is not the important thing to remember. The convention of + and – is necessary to explain the direction of current flow from one terminal to the other.
    For all we know, time could be running backward, but for the sake of definition, it is considered to run forward, or positive.
    It is a convention easily taught & understood; keeps everyone on the same page.

    Happy New Year !

  4. #4 See Noevo
    December 31, 2015

    Perhaps the first living things WERE made of antimatter,
    but eventually nature selected against them. But they left behind no fossils, or at least, none that we’re capable of seeing. You know, because of what they’re made of.

  5. #5 dean
    December 31, 2015

    Or perhaps, sn, you simply don’t understand anything because you never make an attempt.

  6. #6 PJ
    Perth, west Oz
    December 31, 2015

    We created language so that we can communicate with each other. A part of our language incorporates the sciences. New terminology is created by scientists to express their new ideas, or encompass their findings. The words are, to all intent, inventions of the human mind. The words ‘matter, anti matter’ have no meaning other than the definition science applies to them. In themselves, they are descriptive words only so that we understand our peers.
    In another culture, different words are used (created).
    In another galaxy, with humanoid life, again different words may be used to describe an event. Most probably, their definition of these words would not be the same as ours. For instance, time may have a different scale for their purpose. Frequency may be expressed in an entirely different way to what we are familiar with. Within our own society, we have imperial and metric measurement. Through translation, each method is acceptable.

  7. #7 The Peak Oil Poet
    New Zealand
    January 1, 2016

    anti-mater still abounds

    it’s that we have come to call it by a slightly different name:

    “doesn’t matter”

    a scientific experiment you can do to prove it for yourself

    next time your better half calls out “honey can you take out the rubbish (trash)”

    you answer: “sorry honey, i’m writing an incredibly important comment on scienceblogs, five minutes ok?”

    she will answer for sure: “oh doesn’t matter”

    pop

  8. #8 Wow
    January 1, 2016

    Yeah, that’s more bollocks, there.

    No, we don’t call it “doesn’t matter”, we call it “anti matter”, hence the title of the piece. This should have been a clue.

    Your lame attempt to place men as 100% selfish dicks is merely bringing down an entire gender because you don’t know how to bring your own *up*, which is what first wave feminism was all about: bringing women up to their deserved status in law. Respect them as I do, not undo their work by being as much an asshat as the old fossils who tried to stop the sufferage movement.

    All your diatribe is doing for the female gender is proving to the Trumpies that women are just bitter man-haters, when that’s far from the truth.

  9. #9 Wow
    January 1, 2016

    Oh, in future, if you wish to talk entirely off topic like this, go take it to the dump thread.

  10. #10 Bart
    January 1, 2016

    I’m just reading thru these comments and I see an argument about feminism on an anti matter post I just cried laughing

  11. #11 BCL
    Parkland, FL USA
    January 1, 2016

    PJ: your example of the + and – on a battery is a telling one. Why does current flow in the opposite direction of the electrons (the charge carriers in a wire)? Because when the convention was originally created (by noted American Statesman Benjamin Franklin), electrons were not yet theorized. He called the + end the + end because he was working with electrochemical cells and that dominant charge carrier in the solutions were the positive ions. If we were to choose again today, we would probably choose differently (electrons would have a positive charge and positrons would have a negative charge — perhaps we would have to rename them negatrons.)

  12. #12 Wow
    January 2, 2016

    “I’m just reading thru these comments and I see an argument about feminism on an anti matter post I just cried laughing”

    I[m just reading that comment and note that it says nothing that anyone needs to know and just cried laughing.

    You DO know that POS there is blathing offtopic, right, and that anything about that post, including every comment brought about by it (INCLUDING YOURS) is going to have fuck all to do with anti-matter BY THE VERY DEFINITION OF OFF-TOPIC.

    So

    a) You don’t know what the hell off topic means
    b) you don’t know what the hell is wrong with being off topic
    c) You want everyone to know you cried laughing
    d) That information has fuck all to do with anti-matter

    What we’re left with is a dichotomy so far left unanswered. Do you
    a) hate feminism, despite the well deserved social change it brought about
    or
    b) don’t hate feminism, but had such an overwhelming need to post drivel for some other reason.

    Of course, you should take any further posts that you wish to make about something NOT about anti-matter to the dump thread here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/09/23/weekend-diversion-you-are-responsible-for-what-you-say/

    because you wouldn’t want people to cry with laughter at your stupidity, right? Especially after you laughed so hard at off topic posts here. Doing so yourself yet again would be beyond incredibly funny and be deep in incredibly dumb territory.

  13. #13 Gary S
    SoCal
    January 2, 2016

    How do we know that there are NOT equal numbers of “normal” and anti-matter galaxies? Are there astronomical observations which could tell?

  14. #14 Wow
    January 2, 2016

    Because they would interact with each other whenever they come into contact and produce hard gamma rays in their annhialation, then pair production, then more gammas, more pair production and so on until you get the characteristic range of positron/electron annihilation.

    And because it would require a REALLY odd sieve to make a galaxy’s worth of matter all of one type, and at some point, if they weren’t strictly segregated, we would see the matter/antimatter interaction happening at SOME point in the universe, seeing as we can see all galaxies through time as we look further out into space.

    But hypothetically speaking, in the unreal event that a galaxy would be all antimatter, we would not be able to tell the difference.

    However, there is intergalactic matter in gas, dust, planets and even stars, as well as cosmic rays whipping about at near light speed, and they won’t know to miss this oddity. therefore there would be ample evidence of something catastrophic going on in this odd little galaxy.

    So it wouldn’t be feasible for it to happen and be missed in the days of the ultra deep field images from Hubble.

  15. #15 Brian
    CA
    January 6, 2016

    I only scroll to the comments to laugh at “wow” as he picks fights Xbox-live style on a physics blog. Does someone want to pay for him to lose his virginity so that he can finally start growing up?

  16. #16 Wow
    January 7, 2016

    So what you mean is that I provide a useful service and worthwhile content, then.

    Tell me, why do you take correction as “arguing”? Were you an underachiever at school (or is this where you still are)?

    Or is this a really pathetic attempt to attack me and make it my fault?.

  17. #17 Wow
    January 7, 2016

    Oh, and if you are here just to pick fights and insult, please check this call from Ethan:

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2015/12/26/comments-of-the-week-91-from-santa-science-to-lonely-galaxies/

    and realise that Ethan doesn’t want to ban people who insult others gratuitously, but that he’s sick and tired of posters whose only aim is to disrupt this site with personal attacks and no desire to learn or offer scientific discussion,and you have only posted disruptive insult here to date. Therefore he will, with reluctance, ban trolls and the disruptive like yourself.

  18. #18 The Peak Oil Poet
    New Zealand
    January 8, 2016

    Ethan ban trolls?

    He doesn’t ban you which is quite surprising considering how much gutter language you use – you throw it around like a drunk sailor who’s been turned down by every prospect he’s aproached

    maybe you’re really really ugly?

  19. #19 Chris Mannering
    January 8, 2016

    Wow – you’re not the only one making the problem, but you do have a part in making the problem. To get something fixed that doesn’t involve the regular commenters dwindling even further, everyone that participates regardless of the exceptional justification they feel like they have (everyone or almost everyone will be aware of the exceptional attributes that they may feel gives them clean bill of health.)

    To tell you the truth, or my truth, the reason I restrict my visits to once in a blue moon, is not because of your behaviour, but because of the tardy state of discord all round.

    But you are I’m afraid the only common denominator. You’ve been here for years, and I’ve surveyed the comments, and really no one else comes close to your attendance, and hardly anyone has been here more than a fraction of the time you have.

    But though there is some ebb and flow in the levels of discord, it is approximately continuous throughout, and the attributes of that discord are approximately invariant. And it has always featured a large consensus on one side that you are being intolerable in your behaviour. And you on the other side apparently unable to accept ANY responsibility at all. Which isn’t realistic at all.

    People would be willing to shoulder responsibility with or without you, if their modified behaviour actually was sufficient to get improved conditions. But it isn’t enough because you actively part of the problem and that also, like the other things is approximately invariant.

    You’re rational. You know what a common denominator means. You have access to the archives. You can settle this matter for your own self by surveying the legacy.

    Another thing is that if you compare this blog to other blogs. The standard of discussion and the number of people and comments is far lower and smaller here. And that’s not taking account of the relative professionalism and commitment between the venues.

    Ethan’s commitment and professionalism in terms of standards and having a consistent theme, over to the finishing stuff like web-style, and following a template with the same phrasing at the same stages linked to the same actions is basically at a commercial standard. As you no doubt know.
    Which allows us to correlate using boiler plate expectations, without even doing the math to a large extent. we don’t need to, to know he should have a massively larger active following.
    And that’s the pattern going back at least 5 years. Probably more. My prediction to you is that it’ll go back as far as you do, and won’t be there before you arrive, assuming you’re not here from day one.
    Be reasonable. You’re not responsible for the whole problem, and you do bring significant value in other respects relating to background knowledge and so on, by way of mitigation.
    But you need to be actively part of any solution. Nothing will work without your endorsement because you are key – good ways and bad ways. You actually have the power and influence to affect a lasting and noticeable seachange. It’s not clear anyone else does. Peace man.

  20. #20 Wow
    January 8, 2016

    “Wow – you’re not the only one making the problem, but you do have a part in making the problem.”

    No, only as *you* define the problem.

    I didn’t spambot the site with scores of repeats of the same damn assault, did I?

    Go look at the Santa thread.

    Fuck, look at THIS thread. Post #18 gave REASONS why and EXPLAINED the error. Go look here at the triangle of options in discussion:

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/09/23/weekend-diversion-you-are-responsible-for-what-you-say/

    See where that sits on the pyramid?

    And it was in RESPONSE to an offtopic BS post that was entirely trolling. But that, apparently, is my fault.

    Victim blame much?

    Then the others just put 100% fact free insult and denigration.

    To which I responded.

    Apparently, this too is my fault.

    Victim blame much?

    Then there’s the fact that apart from a few people, almost all have only demanded *I* be banned. NOBODY ELSE.

    And that, too, is apparently my fault.

    Ever stop victim blaming?

    You are one of the ones posting ass-pulled conjecture as if it were somehow true and completely overturns the current mainstream of science.

    OF COURSE you will want me to stop telling people that they’re wrong. Because you don’t want to have to face reality and defend your ideas against *skepticism*.

    If you and the kith and kin that also love to post woomancer ass-pulled conjecture don’t want to visit and decide NEVER TO RETURN, *why is that a bad thing*?

    It’s only a bad thing for the woomancers.

    Lastly, and this is a MASSIVE problem and is the germ of the claims against me, intending to silence me.

    I post explanation of error and disparaging remarks. If you’re GENUINELY here to learn, you will AT THE VERY LEAST *notice* and take on board the explanation of error. If you’re not here to learn but to lecture on your pet theory, you will IGNORE the explanation and facts and concentrate only and solely on the insults, making believe that this is the sole and only content of the post.

    Several posters with whom I have argued against in just as strong terms WERE here to learn and listened to the explanation and dealt with it, either with counterpoint, request for clarification of further points, or acceptance.

    However you, as well as multitudinous others, ignore the content other than insult and then “reply” with the equivalent of “You fking retard cockgobble asshat!” and this is done SO THAT THE FACTS CAN BE IGNORED.

    Case in point, the post that the kiwi retard went on her crusade about was rebutted by me curtly, then eric posted and supported the counterpoint that showed its ignorant claims were invalid, BUT POE IGNORED ERIC 100%.

    That POS never accepted ANYONE’S explanation of their error.

    And THAT is why that POS idiot went on her crusade and obsessed over how mean and ugly I was. So as to avoid having to accept they were wrong.

    Finally, look at post #14.

    A question at post #13, posed so as it was answerable, didn’t make outlandish claims, and was answered in my post #14.

    If you think it is MY fault for swearing at posters, why is there such a difference in how *I* posted? What changed was the framing of the question posed.

    THIS IS NOT THE SOLE EXAMPLE.

    I will once again point out that you are myopically insisting on seeing what you WANT to see, making up a personal definition of “acceptable” so as to include me in it, name me SPECIFICALLY, and then include a nebulous “others”, but who they are remains unsaid, and then propose, without demonstration of why, I’m at fault.

    You want confirmation of what you expect to see. So you will only note what evidence confirms that expectation. Any nonconfirming information will be excised either entirely or just not proffered in discussion, ensuring that nobody else sees a different situation.

    And being blindly obedient to confirmation bias is the killer of skepticism (and science) and leads to the ridiculous assertions that deserve the ridicule and scorn heaped on them to be posted. Not to mention conspiracy theories being built on it.

    You will now ignore this and take none of it onboard, because it doesn’t conform to expectations and worse means you need to look at yourself and consider how you need to change your actions.

  21. #21 Wow
    January 8, 2016

    “Ethan ban trolls?”

    Was there something in Ethan’s post that confused you?

    YES,.

    “He doesn’t ban you ”

    Ah, this may be because I’m not a troll. Ever consider that?

    “which is quite surprising considering how much gutter language you use ”

    Which has fuck all to do with being a troll, retard.

    “you throw it around like a drunk sailor who’s been turned down by every prospect he’s aproached”

    Shaming as a coercive tactic.

    DOES NOT WORK ON ME, you loveless idiotic moron.

  22. #22 Wow
    January 8, 2016

    And could you PLEASE work out together yourselves whether I’m male or female.

    Because I’ve never said which I am, but Teabaggie “knows” I’m female and does his misogynist retard screed to try to browbeat me, but YOU “know” I’m male, and let loose your misandric retard screed for the same reason.

    If you don’t know whether I’m male or female, ALL YOU ARE DOING is indicating which gender you think is most repulsive to you.

    And that’s grade-A sexism right there.

    YOU hate men. All men. Your assumption proves that you believe all men are bad people.

    Teabagger hates women. All women. His assumption proves that he believes all women are worthless beings.

    So, find out which one I am, because if teabagger is right, you and sundry others are denigrating a woman by pretending they’re such a male (ugly, ugly male) that they cannot attract anyone (why on earth do men or women HAVE to have a sexual partner of the opposite sex? Do you hate nonsexuals, gays, lesbians, the nongendered, trans community, whose ideas of what constitute a partner is very different from the one you assume is the one and only method of “true satisfaction”, rendering their alternative choice nonexistent and therefore wrong?

    Because that’s what your respective sexist rants and insults have been, and from “both sides” of the room. Menhating women and womenhating men. BOTH insisting that the only option is heterosexual relationships and that any and all humans must engage in those heteronormal partnerships.

    It appears bigotry is an equal opportunity employer.

    And is strongest amongst those loudest in their protestations at rude and dismissive words from other people’s mouths. Hypocrisy is a strong bedfellow of bigotry, and necessarily so.

  23. #23 Chris Mannering
    January 8, 2016

    Hi Wow – Well that was the best effort I am willing to spend precious time on. I’m sorry that nothing got through to you. You do have value, and you clearly want to be a positive force. It’s just damn sad and a bit depressing that a good guy like you cannot or will not face his part in things – that I have to say is obvious to everyone else. I’m not sure why Ethan doesn’t see it. It might just be loyalty back for your attendance. But clearly, that kind of loyalty that just takes the other person further away from where they need to get to, is not really a kind thing to do.

    “You are one of the ones posting ass-pulled conjecture as if it were somehow true and completely overturns the current mainstream of science”

    There is no part of science that requires fidelity to the particular consensus of the day. Consensus is irrelevant in the context where someone is committed to developing a worldview in that space. In all cases, it is ESSENTIAL that those people do not just learn the consensus. Every consensus ends up being wrong after longer than necessary being spent entertaining it. By whom? Who throws off the consensus? New people, new blood, committed to what is true. Not the vanities of outgoing generations.

    But, I acknowledge that it doesn’t fit squarely with Ethan’s theme. And the way I respect that, without compromising what I think is right, is by not commenting on the matter very often. And not forcing extended arguments. I think that’s the normal and civilized way to deal with it. If you want to hug the consensus and you love, then get on with it, I’ve no quarrel with that. But don’t tell me what to think.

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