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Exotic particles destroying the universe

  1. Aug 26, 2005 #1
    I just recalled an article I read in discovery magazine (IIRC) that listed 10 or 20 ways the world could end. I recall one scenario they explained where an exotic, and never before seen particle, synthesized in a particle accelerator could react negatively with normal particles and destroy the universe as we know it. The magazine gave this a fairly high likelihood of this happening compared to other scenarios.

    I find this extremely hard to believe. In the early universe (very, very, early) high energy particles were slamming into each other all of the time. Trillions upon trillions of times more high energy reactions between particles were occurring than occur during the operational lifetime of a particle accelerator. Furthermore, there were probably a richer diversity of high energy particle reactions then man has ever witnessed during the entire history of modern physics. Isn't it safe to say that every particle we are capable of producing in the next thousand years has already existed in the past with no adverse effect on the fabric of the universe?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2005 #2
    That is, as Ralph Wiggum would put it, unpossible. The only kind of matter capable of annihilating our regular matter is antimatter and we can produce it only in miniscule amounts.
  4. Aug 26, 2005 #3
    The article did not imply that it would necessarily destroy matter, just that it would really screw things up.
  5. Aug 28, 2005 #4


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    I can clear this up for you. This exotic never before seen synthesized particle is in fact antimatter. And, sadly, it there is no possibility it could destroy the universe, let alone the world... unless an asteroid of it smashed in. It would literally annihilate the Earth.

    There is no natural ‘mine’ (on Earth or even in the Universe) where antimatter can be dug out - antiparticles have to be made by using accelerators for concentrating energy in particle beams and then colliding them with a block of matter.

    Making positrons costs about 10 billion times more energy than is finally stored in their mass and to make a kilogram of antimatter would therefore take all the energy produced on Earth for 10 million years. And of course, the ones made add up to unimaginably small amounts, because they are only the size of a proton.

    In antimatter-matter collisions, the entire rest mass of the particles is converted to pure energy, heat and light. This is much greater than the chemical energy or even nuclear energy that can be converted today, using chemical reactions or nuclear fission or fusion. The reaction of 1 kg of antimatter with 1 kg of matter would produce 9×1016 Joules of energy (by the equation E=±mc²). In contrast, burning a kilogram of gasoline produces 4.2×107 Joules, and nuclear fusion of a kilogram of hydrogen would produce 2.6×1015 Joules.

    Generating a single positron is immensely difficult and requires huge atom smashers and huge amounts of energy, due to inefficiencies in the process. The operation cost is about 1 million CHF (800000 USD/440000 £) per year. Overall cost including salaries about 2.5 million CHF per year. (CERN budget only, not including physicists from outside CERN)

    Known methods of producing antimatter from energy also produce an equal amount of normal matter, so the limit is that half of the input energy is converted to antimatter. Counterbalancing this, when antimatter annihilates with ordinary matter energy equal to twice the mass of the antimatter is relesed, so energy storage in the form of antimatter is in theory be up to 100% efficient. Antimatter production is currently very limited, but has been growing at a nearly geometric rate since the discovery of the first antiproton in 1955 (http://ffden-2.phys.uaf.edu/212_fal...man/history.htm). The current antimatter production rate is between 1 and 10 nanograms per year, and this is expected to increase dramatically with new facilities at CERN (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cern, http://public.web.cern.ch/Public/Welcome.html) and Fermilab (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermilab, http://www.fnal.gov). With current technology, it is considered possible to attain antimatter for $25 billion per gram, by optimizing the collision and collection parameters, given current electricity generation costs.

    I just said a lot of stuff about antimatter, but didn't quite put an emphasis on how it could not destroy the universe did I?
  6. Sep 24, 2005 #5
    Another point is the fact that an anti matter/matter interaction will only annihilate the combined mass as energy.
    In the programme scenario only a small amount of anti matter was produced, so although this would have catastrophic consequences for the immediate locality, once the interaction was completed the process would stop.
    The programme seemed to suggest that the process would proliferate and cause an unstoppable chain reaction.
    If this were true then the Universe, which in its early stages went through a stage where it was comprised of almost equal amounts of matter (slightly more thank goodness!)/antimatter, would not exist and we would not be here to ask the question. :wink:
  7. Sep 24, 2005 #6
    No, as I said before, I remeber distinctly that they were not talking about antimatter. I knew what antimatter was at the time, and I do not recall their explanation sounding akin to what antimatter would do.
  8. Sep 25, 2005 #7


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    Maybe micro-black holes?
  9. Sep 25, 2005 #8
    No, they would evaporate very quickly.

    They were likely talking about strangelets.
  10. Sep 25, 2005 #9


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    Considering it has not yet happened after ~14 billion years, the odds of it happening now appear slim. I'm more worried about a hurricane slamming into New Orleans and breaking the big levee ...
  11. Sep 25, 2005 #10
    that is frightening
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