For months speculation has mounted over the gigantic strides forward CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland might make. Breakthroughs in particle physics have been anticipated by the world's physicists like the eagerness exhibited by small children during the approaching holidays.
Christmas has arrived early for the scientists at CERN this year…but the LHC was not involved.
Instead, anti-atoms of hydrogen were caught inside a powerful electromagnetic field and slowed down to prevent them from contacting and annihilating ordinary atoms. To reach that state the team achieved a temperature of one half degree above absolute zero to contain the anti-hydrogen atoms.
This process suspended the anti-matter making it last more than one-tenth of a second. To particle physicists that's like a thousand years.
Speaking with the press, the CERN team spokesman, American scientist Jeffrey Hangst, said, "For us it's a big breakthrough because it means we can take the next step, which is to try to compare matter and antimatter."
Hangst, and the other team members that include British, Israeli, Canadian, and Brazilian scientists, explained they successfully "trapped" 38 separate anti-hydrogen atoms. Hangst revealed that the length of time they can keep the anti-matter atoms viable has extended beyond the previous limit.
"Unfortunately I can't tell you how long, because we haven't published the number yet," Hangst explained. "But I can tell you that it's much, much longer than a tenth of a second. Within human comprehension on a real clock."
Being able to have enough time to study the properties of ant-matter will permit researchers to determine basic questions in physics such as why the universe is matter instead of ant-matter. Cosmologists claim both were created in equal numbers during the Big Bang's creation of the universe.
Other CERN experiments in the future are expected to be potentially more earth-shaking than the anti-matter breakthrough.
Some physicists anticipate the discovery of the so-called 'God' particle-also known scientifically as the The Higgs boson. The particle is a hypothetical elementary particle that some theoretical physicists believe must exist because of the mathematical equations supporting the Standard Model of particle physics. A particle such as the 'God' particle is needed to make the model valid.
At this point, experiments seem to support the validity of the Higgs boson. That—or something like it—is needed to keep the universe from tearing itself apart at the speed of light.
Other experiments may discover previously unknown exotic particles, dark matter, new dimensions and even the existence of strange parallel universes.