Searching for our anti-selves
The Big Bang, and then…
At the Big Bang, we believe that matter and antimatter should have been created in equal amounts.
But looking around the Universe now, we see much more matter than antimatter.
What happened to all the “missing” antimatter?
Why didn’t we annihilate with our anti-selves?
Dr Helen Quinn, of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre, says:
“The best theory we have on how the Universe works … predicts that we shouldn’t exist.
“It says that in the Big Bang equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created. Since antimatter and matter annihilate each other when they come into contact, the Universe should have obliterated itself shortly after birth.
“That obviously means the best theory is wrong.”
Why are we here?
No-one knows yet why there seems to be so much more matter than antimatter.
There might be some imbalance in the laws of physics as we understand them. Maybe matter and antimatter weren’t created in exactly equal amounts, or didn’t annihilate exactly evenly.
There might be antimatter “hotspots” in other regions of the Universe, with entire antimatter galaxies; maybe even antimatter life.
Searching the skies for our anti-selves
If we looked through a telescope at an antimatter galaxy:
- Could we tell it apart from a positive-matter galaxy like our own?
- Would its anti-atoms behave like their positive-matter opposites?
In laboratories and observatories around the world the search is on.
We’re looking out into space for evidence of antimatter galaxies, and conducting experiments in laboratories on Earth to gain a better understanding of the symmetry between matter and antimatter.
Life, but not as we know it?
We don’t know yet whether our “anti-selves” are really out there, but that hasn’t stopped science fiction writers from imagining them, or from using antimatter technology in their stories. How accurately does science fiction portray antimatter?