In Brief
A new antimatter study shows that antihydrogen and hydrogen share the same emission wavelength, lending experimental strength to The Standard Model, a fundamental theory aiming to explain the Universe.

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Antimatter

This week, a paper came out that takes the work of twentieth-century physicists on subatomic interactions and delves into the strange and nascent study of antimatter. Published by Mostafa Ahmadi and his colleagues in the journal Nature, the study shows that antihydrogen — the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen — also produces the standard 21-cm (8.3-inch) emission wavelength. That is half the answer to life, the Universe, and everything as predicted by Douglas Adams‘ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy…which is 42.

Antimatter is hard to study since it tends to annihilate any matter it comes into contact with. Using CERN’s ALPHA-2 particle accelerator device, 90,000 antiprotons are slowed and captured from the Antiproton Decelerator, ultimately producing 25,000 antihydrogen atoms. That might seem like a big number, but an average grain of sand has 1-100 million million million atoms in it. That’s about twenty more zeroes more than the quantity of antihydrogen atoms, so far.

Image Credit: Nature Journal

Results Support The Standard Model

Developed in the 1970s, The Standard Model successfully explained nearly all experimental results of how the basic building blocks of the Universe, called fundamental particles, in addition to three universal forces, interact. The Standard Model not only predicted a variety of phenomena like charge-parity-time, it has become an established, reliable theory.

According to Nature, “Charge-parity-time (CPT) symmetry predicts that energy levels in antimatter and matter should be the same. Even the slightest violation of this rule would require a serious rethink of the standard model of physics.” Scientists test The Standard Model by finding inconsistencies — if there are discrepancies between the behavior of matter and antimatter, this raises doubt or may even falsify a set of rules. But, since the opposite has obtained, here’s to the continued posterity of twentieth-century subatomic particle physics, if it isn’t too big of a mouth-full.