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Whence Matter?

Matter is nice to have a round isn’t it?

It gives us cool stuff to look at and things to interact with. Nobody in a good mood ever wants to take a vacation away from matter.

Why matter exists though is actually one of the biggest mysteries in physics  This is because our best scientific theories tell us that equal amounts of matter and anti-matter existed in the early universe. Since anti-matter is identical to matter except for its opposite charge, when they come in contact with each other they both explode in a titanic release of energy.

Therefore matter and anti-matter should have totally wiped each other out; why then is the universe mostly matter? Why isn’t the universe a void filled with some energy flying around and nothing else…no stars, no planets, no life, and most importantly, no Reeses peanut-butter cups?

I tried to think of an analogy. The best I could come up with is thoroughly mixing equal parts black and white paint and always ending up with a tiny glob of pure white paint in the mix. That is our visible universe people.

Physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have recently reported that they may have found a new clue that could help resolve this mystery.

Using the 2nd biggest collider in the world, the Tevatron, they studied a fascinating particle called neutral B-Mesons. Remember that particle, you may be hearing about it more in the future.
These particles are special because they actually spontaneously switch between a matter particle and an anti-matter particle trillions of times a second. This is called flavor oscillation.

When these particles decay, they produce 1 of 2 things. A muon which is kind of an obese electron since it’s a fundamental particle like an electron with a negative charge but is 200 times as massive. The other possible decay particle is a muon with a positive charge, in other words, an anti-muon.

The real interesting bit is that this decay produces more matter than anti-matter. Now we’ve seen matter biases like this before such as the so-called CP violations. These Charge Parity violations describe other physical processes that also produce a bit more normal matter than its evil anti-matter twin. This is a very tiny effect though and theory predicted it. This new data suggests that 50 times more matter is made than the Standard Model of particle interactions says there should be.

Research team Rep Stefan Soldner-Rembold said:
“Many of us felt goose bumps when we saw the result, we knew we were seeing something beyond what we have seen before and beyond what current theories can explain.”

For me, that’s the rub right there. This might be a signpost to new physics, something beyond the Standard model, something that would make physicists (and me) giggle like little girls.

I’ll paraphrase a quote commonly attributed to Isaac Asimov: Most big discoveries are heralded not by “Eureka!” but by…”Hmm, that’s funny”

4 comments to Whence Matter?

  • papadopc

    More accurate measurements (ie bigger sample) of the effect shows that it probably is not real.


    Even 3 sigma statistics fail from time to time (0.25% to be exact), not necessarily through a fault of the experimenters.

    When scientists say more data is needed, they usually mean it 🙂

  • Cobey

    I don’t understand how the particle can switch between matter and anti-matter. Does it have something to do with the quark’s charges actually changing? Also, I’m blown away that they can measure something that’s happening trillions of times per second. Whoa

  • As Feynman showed: a pair of B particles can oscillate between matter & and anti-matter by oscillating back & forth in the time dimension.
    In other words: either ‘particle’ going backward and forward in time. The charges do not have to switch. Time-reversal makes them appear to so do.
    This is allowed in QM, provided that it is balanced & brief.

  • Cobey

    Yeah I remember that from QED but can you elaborate a little more on what that actually means (forward and backward in time)? Would the particle behave just like anti-matter and annihilate on contact with matter?

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