Physicists Heaviest Antimatter Found

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In an absolutely scary development, the heaviest antimatter ever found was created in a little copy of the "big bang". The experiment that was conducted near Long Island, New York culminates at least a year of smashing atoms together.

According to the National Geographic, the resulting particle is called antihypertriton and contains another new item: the antistrange quark. This means that the Periodic Table of the Elements has to be updated soon. The new element will be called "Element 118".

The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York was the site of the discovery, which was made last Spring. Except for the fact that hundreds of millions more smashings have happened since then, there is no reason given for the recent excitement over a particle that was discovered a year ago. Then, only a description of the particle was published on March 4, 2010 in the Science Express journal. Now, the particle is well confirmed and is getting a lot of attention.

How does this work? The RHIC is an antimatter generating machine. Atoms are stripped of their electrons, then are smashed together at close to the speed of light. When they collide, the atoms are broken into their most basic particles.

"Molecular Rubble" is created,  the scientists pick through it all and they examine what they find. This time, stripped gold atoms were used and the smashing went on for over a hundred thousand time and about 70 antihypertritons and 2,000 nuclei of antihelium-3 were found in the rubble. Antihelium-3 is another incredibly rare particle that comes from atom smashing, and it was the record holder for weight.

But antihypertritons are said to be 200 megaelectron volts heaver than antihelium-3. 

Normal atoms have nuclei. The nuclei have subatomic particles called protons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons have quarks and gluons.The particles have magnetic properties and charges.

Antimatter has nuclei. The nuclei have particles with the same mass as the particles of normal atoms, but the the charges and magnetic charges in antimatter the are the opposite of the charges and magnetic properties of normal atoms.

Why are physicists doing this? They are curious. The real "Big Bang" was expected to smash together particles that would break up into matter and antimatter, which would smash together again and annihilate all particles. But our universe has more matter than antimatter and all of that smashing leaves rubble behind!

So smaller versions of the "Big Bang" are created which help scientists to, at least,  find out what happens when atoms, stripped of their electrons, are smashed together at nearly the speed of light.

As for the Periodic Table of the Elements, it has gone to a three dimensional version. The classic version simply arrayed the elements according to the number protons in the atoms. The number of protons determines the mass of the atoms.

The new, third dimension allows an accounting for elements based on the number of neutrons and "strange quarks". These items are not found in protons or neutrons.

Here is how the 3-D periodic table will work, now that antihypertriton has been discovered:

One plane is the classic periodic table.

Lying on a plane that floats above the flat periodic table are some types of helium, lithium and hydrogen atoms that have strange quarks.

Lying on a plane that floats below the flat periodic table is the first particle ever discovered to have an antistrange quark: the antihypertriton!

This is not over! Scientists are still searching through the "rubble" from hundreds of millions of smashings, and are on the hunt for more exotic and new finds.

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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