The Madeleine Brand Show for November 19, 2010

Antimatter atom captured for first time

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, poses in front of a giant photograph of the CMS detector of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the 'Weltmaschine' ('World Machine') exhibition on October 14, 2008 in Berlin, Germany.

Antimatter? Huh? This isn't science fiction - scientists at the European CERN laboratory caught particles of antimatter with magnets, man, and we'll tell you how they work. Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at CalTech, joins us to talk shop and get you jazzed about what this discovery means for our understanding of life, the Big Bang, and the Universe as it exists today.

The Geneva-based CERN particle physics laboratory confined antimatter particles in a magnetic trap. Though predicted to exist in 1931 by Carl Anderson and observed in 2002, antimatter particles have not been able to be observed for more than a few milliseconds due to their volatile interaction with any kind of matter, requiring an immobilization like CERN's innovative use of magnetic fields.


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