Despite the organization’s $1.24 billion annual budget for 2017, the physicists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, are being forced to admit failure in their latest effort to explain why any of us are here.
Indeed, why there’s even a “here” here at all.
CERN, founded in 1954, features a circular tunnel some 17 miles around that houses a particle accelerator, which uses peak energy of 14 trillion electron volts to speed particles to nearly the speed of light and allow them to collide. It is underneath Switzerland near its border with France.
Smorra and other scientists are trying to resolve the mystery of why – given the assumption the universe is the result of the Big Bang – the resulting matter was not annihilated back into nothingness by the equal amount of resulting antimatter.
“All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter,” Smorra told Cosmos magazine. “An asymmetry must exist here somewhere, but we simply do not understand where the difference is.”
It is that elusive asymmetry CERN scientists have been seeking – some out-of-balance property that allows matter to continue existing.
That’s easier said than done. Unstable by nature, antimatter annihilates in a burst of pure energy when it comes in contact with matter in a reaction that is the most efficient known in physics. That property is why antimatter was selected as the fuel to power the Enterprise spaceship on “Star Trek.”
While Hollywood long ago “solved” the problem of capturing, storing and utilizing antimatter, it has not been so easy for scientists. To date, very precise measurements have been conducted on antimatter’s properties: mass, electric charge and most recently, magnetic moment, but with no difference being found when compared to regular matter. Last year’s CERN’s Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus (ALPHA) experiment proved equally disappointing when atoms of antihydrogen and hydrogen were examined with light for the first time, and no difference was observed. Still, the universe remains.
One property that has not been well understood, and the subject of CERN’s most recent work, is the magnetic moment of antiprotons. For the past 10 years, a CERN team has worked on a way to capture individual protons, store them and then measure their magnetic moment. As any container made of matter will cause antiprotons to self-annihilate on contact, a new technique was developed to trap individual protons in a double trap consisting of a magnetic and electrical field, thus creating an antimatter chamber that held antiprotons for 405 days. This allowed researchers to run their magnetic moment measurements, precise to nine significant digits – 350 times more precise than any previous measurement. One would have to measure the circumference of the Earth to within a few centimeters to have a similar accomplishment.
Yet despite the impressive technical advances that let scientists measure antimatter’s additional properties, the laws of physics still dictated the universe should not exist.
WND reported in 2008 concerns by some members of the public that the CERN experiments using the then-new Large Hadron Collider to smash atoms together to explore antimatter might set off a reaction that would obliterate Earth. Scientists even received death threats.
In June 2016, as a new experiment called Awake was getting underway at the CERN super collider, photographers captured ominous images of dark swirling clouds and lightning above the facility that did not appear to be associated with a natural meteorological event.
A report featuring the images asked, “What portal did CERN open now?”
“The cloud looks to be rotating in a circular motion and some have claimed to see a face in the lightning filled cloud. Last year we reported that there were clear images of demons in the pictures of CERN’s beams. Could this be an outer manifestation of one?” the report said.
It appears, however, that despite Big Bang assumptions, dark clouds and the ongoing search fo asymmetry between matter and antimatter, the universe remains stable, sustained by some force CERN has not yet considered.
The scientists are not giving up. The next planned experiment focuses on the gravity of antimatter. It’s already known that matter falls down as the result of the force gravity, but does that mean antimatter falls up? Since the universe still exists, the answer to that question is probably yes.