Experiments conducted at CERN have proven that antimatter behaves just like matter. In short, there is no antigravity for antimatter.
Antimatter is a fascinating topic in physics. Although antimatter can be produced in laboratories, it is not common in the universe, which continues to puzzle physicists. in A new and pioneering study The researchers asked themselves an interesting question. Because if you dropped antimatter, would it fall like normal matter, or would it stay afloat?
Matter versus antimatter
Back to the beginning. Because what exactly are matter and antimatter? Our bodies, the Earth, and almost everything scientists know about in the universe are made up largely of ordinary matter. Matter, in turn, consists of protons, neutrons, and electrons, such as atoms of oxygen, carbon, iron, and other periodic table elements. Antimatter is actually the “twin brother” of regular matter, but has some opposite properties. For example, antiprotons have a negative charge, unlike protons, which are positively charged. Antielectrons, also known as positrons, have a positive charge, while regular electrons are negatively charged.
But perhaps the most challenging thing, according to researcher Joel Fagans, is this: “Once antimatter touches matter, it explodes.” The combined mass of matter and antimatter is completely converted into energy in a reaction so powerful that scientists call it annihilation. “If we look at a given amount of mass, converting it into energy through this process is the most compact form of energy release that we have observed to date,” Fagans says.
In a new study, researchers wondered what happens when antimatter falls out. The idea that matter and antimatter might be affected differently by gravity is tempting, because it could solve some cosmic mysteries. This may have led to a situation in which matter and antimatter were separated at the beginning of the universe. This separation could explain why we observe only a small amount of antimatter in our current universe. According to most theories, an equal amount of matter and antimatter should have been created during the Big Bang. Only this antimatter has somehow disappeared to a much greater extent, which is one of the greatest mysteries in the universe.
Experience the Tower of Pisa
“You might wonder why we don’t do the most obvious experiment, which is to drop a piece of antimatter, similar to the Tower of Pisa experiment,” Fagans says. You know, Galileo’s experiment – which by the way is more of a myth – where he allegedly dropped a lead ball and a wooden ball from the top of a tower and showed that they hit the ground at the same time. In our case, we fire the antimatter and see if it goes up or down.
In this experiment, antihydrogen was trapped in a long, cylindrical vacuum chamber equipped with a magnetic trap, the strength of which could be adjusted. Scientists gradually reduced the strength of the magnetic fields at the top and bottom, allowing the antihydrogen atoms to escape. Whenever an antihydrogen atom leaves the magnetic trap, it hits the walls of the chamber above or below the trap and is destroyed. Scientists were able to observe and count this.
The team repeated the experiment more than a dozen times, adjusting the strength of the magnetic field several times. They observed that when the magnetic fields at the top and bottom were precisely balanced, about 80% of the antihydrogen atoms at the bottom escaped and were destroyed — a result consistent with how a cloud of ordinary hydrogen behaves under the same conditions. In short, gravity causes antihydrogen to fall.
Antimatter was chosen
This means that scientists have now observed how individual antihydrogen atoms move downward. This provides a definitive answer to the main question: antimatter falls just like matter. For those still hoping that antimatter floats around, these new findings are quite alarming. “This experiment represents the first time a direct measurement of how gravity acts on antimatter has been made,” says researcher Jonathan Wortley. “It represents an important step in antimatter science.”
Einstein’s general theory of relativity
The results will not be a surprise to most physicists. Although Einstein’s theory of general relativity was developed before the discovery of antimatter in 1932, all viewpoints are equally important. This means that gravitational forces on antimatter and ordinary matter should act in the same way. “The opposite outcome would have had disastrous consequences,” Wortelli says. “It would have violated the weak equivalence principle in Einstein’s theory of general relativity.”
Through this study, researchers revealed the effect of gravity on matter’s elusive cousin. This makes the mystery of why there is so little antimatter in the universe even more puzzling. One possible explanation for this mystery is that antimatter was repelled by ordinary matter under the influence of gravity during the Big Bang. But the new findings suggest that this theory could now move into the realm of myth. “We have now proven that antimatter does not repel gravity, but is attracted to it,” explains Wortelli. “However, this does not necessarily mean that there is no difference in the way gravity acts on antimatter. Only a more precise measurement will eventually be able to confirm this.”
The researchers plan to continue their research into antihydrogen. In addition to improving their measurements regarding gravitational effects, they are also studying how antihydrogen responds to electromagnetic radiation via spectroscopy. “If antihydrogen is somehow different from regular hydrogen, this would be a groundbreaking discovery,” Wortelli says. “This is because the laws of nature, whether quantum mechanics or gravity, predict that their behavior should be the same. But you can’t say that for sure until you prove it with experiment.”
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