A new particle-smashing experiment has uncovered surprising evidence that nature treats matter and antimatter differently.
The findings, detailed today in the U.K. journal Nature, suggests that a complete solution to the mystery of why the observable universe is dominated by matter, and not antimatter, may have to await the discovery of novel particles or the invention of new physics.
Antimatter is the weird twin of matter. For every particle of normal matter, there is a particle of equal mass but opposite electric charge. When a normal particle and an anti-particle collide, they annihilate one another in an explosion of pure energy.
According to the standard model of physics, matter and antimatter were created in equal quantities shortly after the Big Bang. The two types of particles should have thus cancelled each other out and the universe should be permeated by energy.
But as our existence attests, that did not happen. Experiments suggests the universe today is composed of about 75 per cent dark energy, 20 per cent dark matter, and five per cent matter/antimatter, with the overwhelming bulk of the latter consisting of normal matter.
A major mystery of modern physics is why normal matter particles are the building blocks of the observable universe. Why are we not made of antimatter? Or pure energy? Scientists speculate that a tiny imbalance in the early universe allowed a small fraction of normal matter – one particle for every one billion – to avoid annihilation and survive to form stars, planets, and humans.
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