Antimatter Annihilation in Angels & Demons

  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

Hello,

Last night I rented Angels & Demons and observed a number of physical flaws. I noticed that the explosion following the annihilation of the antimatter in the canister was not as intense as what I had expected, which may not be a flaw as I am merely a novice in the realm of physics. However, I would imagine that such a quantity of antimatter would produce an explosion with an intensity far greater than that of the one that was shown. Although it is purely fictitious and poetic license comes into play, am I correct in assuming that the explosion would, under normal circumstances, have been far more cataclysmic?

Thanks,
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Bandersnatch
Science Advisor
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In terms of pure energy release it should be a full matter-energy conversion. So for any given amount of antimatter you should double the mass(you need ordinary matter to annihilate it with) and plug it in into E=mc^2.
I haven't seen the film, so I don't know how much antimatter was there, but for comparision, annihilating an average sized cat should net around 800PJ, or four times the amount of energy released by the Tsar Bomba - the highest yield thermonuclear device ever detonated.
 
  • #3
Bandersnatch
Science Advisor
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O.k., so I watched a clip from that film on youtube. It "looks" like a very small amount of antimatter. Let's say it's 1g. After plugging all the numbers we get 180 TJ, or roughly 40 kilotons of TNT. That's roughly twice the yield of Fat Man. Considering the state that bomb left Nagasaki in after being detonated 500m up in the air, the people in the film would probably evaporate too.

Of course, it only "looks" like 1g to me, which means that it could be pretty much anything, including a suitably smaller amount to cause only minor distress to Mr Hanks' character.
 
  • #4
732
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O.k., so I watched a clip from that film on youtube. It "looks" like a very small amount of antimatter. Let's say it's 1g. After plugging all the numbers we get 180 TJ, or roughly 40 kilotons of TNT. That's roughly twice the yield of Fat Man. Considering the state that bomb left Nagasaki in after being detonated 500m up in the air, the people in the film would probably evaporate too.
It would probably have taken out all of Vatican City. So obviously they used much less antimatter. The amount of antimatter would have to be very small. However, the equipment needed to isolate it from the environment would have been enormous. One would need an ultravacuum chamber, and special magnetic confinement containers to keep it from touch the sides. The power needed to run this equipment would have been enormous.
They might as well detonated the power source that was used to power the magnetic confinement container.
Of course, it only "looks" like 1g to me, which means that it could be pretty much anything, including a suitably smaller amount to cause only minor distress to Mr Hanks' character.
If there was so little antimatter, then the villains should have tried conventional explosives.
Strangely, the entire effort was relatively low tech. The antimatter is advanced science, of course. However, the terrorist in the movie clip don't seem to use any other advanced technology. These guys hadn't advanced far beyond the Gunpowder Plot.
Terrorists are doing just fine with Improvised Explosive Devices. One truck with a ton of fertilizer would have done as much damage as that "antimatter." Of course, they could have transported it with robotic Drones. And how was it triggered. No one in the Vatican has cell phones?
 
  • #5
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I believe there was 0.25 grams of antimatter, which would be about 45 TJ, about half of what Bandersnatch guesetimated. Doesn't really change much though.
 
  • #6
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Antimatter bombs are a bit different from nuclear weapons - most of their energy goes to high-energetic photons and muons, which can spread over ~1km or more before they release their energy. So the shockwave is smaller, but people in the vatican would probably receive a serious radiation dose. Some days ago, the effects were discussed in this thread.
 

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