What is Antimatter - really?

  1. What is Antimatter -- really?

    I've been trying to get a grasp of what they ideal of antimatter is exactly. I do understand that it's the 'opposite' of 'matter'. Electronics, Neutrons, Protons, all have an 'opposite', and I've seen where the folks over at CERN have been smashing atoms together to get an exploding result hopefully creating antimatter. I understand that when one touches the other, they annhiallate. But what confuses me is...if it's about their charge then, and please excuse me if this thought is just stupid, I'm flying by the seat of my pants on this one...wouldn't there be a way to just 'flip' the charge?

    I even feel my last statement isn't exactly up to par, but that's why I'm asking the question...what is antimatter?
  2. jcsd
  3. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    Hopefully? They have been doing this successfully for over 50 years now.

    What do you mean with "flip" the charge?
    I guess you mean the electric charge. This is conserved - no particle can just change its charge.
  4. tiny-tim

    tiny-tim 26,016
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    hi bodykey! :smile:
    antimatter is pretty much as you have described it

    i don't see any point in looking for some reason for it

    if by "flipping" you mean like the way an electron in an atom can flip from one energy level to another, the answer is no:

    the transformation required (to turn a particle into its antiparticle) would involve turning space (or time) inside-out
  5. Hepth

    Hepth 529
    Gold Member

    I don't know to be honest. If you take an individual particle, then no you can't as far as we know. But if you look into neutral meson and baryon(KKbar DDbar BBbar BsBsbar n-nbar etc) oscillations, you can have a pair of particles : Q q~ (*where ~ means anti particle *)and have:
    Q q~ > Q~ q

    So each flipped from particle to anti-particle and vice versa, as a pair. This happens through an echange of another particle or two, but it can happen nonetheless (its experimentally observed).

    So if you ask "Can I flip this electron to a positron?" I can answer with "Yes, so long as you flip this positron over here to an electron, through some long range photon exchange, at the same time."
  6. mfb

    Staff: Mentor

    A photon exchange won't work. You will need a lepton exchange, but then I don't think you can call it "flipped" any more. The particles just changed their position.
  7. I quite like the minutephysics analogy with "3-ness", i.e. that just as you can call upon the universal spirit of "3-ness" to produce both 3s and -3s, so too can electrons and anti-electrons be summoned from the same underlying electron field.

    It's not quite that simple of course, but thinking in terms of the underlying fields is the place to start I think.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  8. Bill_K

    Bill_K 4,157
    Science Advisor

    K-Kbar oscillations involve just an individual particle, not a pair of particles. The eigenstates K-long and K-short are linear superpositions of K and K-bar.
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