My advisor also worked on creating antimatter traps at government labs, but none of the projects had any kind of defense related purposes.
There are only a handful of interesting research questions about antimatter that exist at reasonable scales. Most of those are either fundamental physics or medical in nature.
EDIT: Looks like there has been some Air Force funding for positron traps for defense purposes. Never underestimate the insanity of some generals. I think my physics comments still stand, though.
(Comments like this make me want to stop reading Hacker News.) Just because the "gunpowder" is expensive doesn't stop the production of containment vessels or delivery mechanisms:
Additionally, "antimatter" can include positrons, which are much cheaper to produce than antiprotons.
Your advisor may not have been involved in all imaginable projects related to antimatter.
Along with research into directly producing weapons, antimatter can also be used to initiate (micro)fusion, and has been researched for space travel:
A pure (or high percentage) positron weapon would be very hard to handle. The repulsive forces would be enormous. As in we have a hard time containing the equivalent mass of electrons. And that's without worrying about annihilation.
And really, I think RK's response was spurred on more by rubypay's tone/phrasing. The original phrasing easily sounds like we're on the verge of practical anti-matter weapons. Which we're not.
If that's not trolling, I don't know what is. I will remind the gentle readers that I even edited my post (with a tag) for correctness almost immediately.
Just because the "gunpowder" is expensive doesn't stop the production of containment vessels or delivery mechanisms:
Actually that's exactly why such a project doesn't make sense. Kind of like building a fancy castle to put your Holy Grail in before you've found it. Read any of the articles or commentaries based on actual science, they say that such a weapon is so far fetched from an engineering stand point, that it's not worth pursuing.
Or the same wikipedia article you linked:
Thank you for ignoring my edit.
I'm not saying that any of this is impossible, just that it's horribly impractical, needing probably an order(s?) of magnitude more than Manhattan Project level of effort.
I wish the energy supply rationale were the real motivating factor for funding here.
I hope, the only thing these are being designed for is some gamma-ray laser for a new ground based Star Wars system and not as an actual munition of any sort. The complications are astronomical, especially given that gamma-rays are the EMP-producing portion of a nuclear reaction. An positron trap light enough to be contained in a weapon going off without a tamper to produce an explosion from the gamma-ray heating could be devastating for a modern society.
I'd never call playing god with this shit, I call playing stupid.
I would guess that a antimatter bomb would have to a similar design to fission or multi-stage devices where things are held together long enough by implosion for a significant proportion of the fuel to react.
So then the argument turns into critical mass vs. critical structure mass.
Anyways, the technique they used is much more interesting than the fact that it's antimatter. Of course, CERN still has to play the PR game too just like anybody else, and I don't fault them for that.
However, the real benefit to using anti-matter in munitions would be as a catalyst, not necessarily as a primary source of energy.
Consider a conventional multi-stage thermonuclear weapon, conventional explosives compress a fission primary bomb which goes off and serves as an x-ray light-bulb inside a radiation channel to provide ablative compression of the fusion secondary which, with the aid of a fission bomb "spark plug" ignites a self-sustaining fusion reaction. If you had significant quantities of anti-matter available you could change this design significantly. In the simplest design you could replace the primary with perhaps a single gram or less of anti-matter. Saving significant amounts of weight and also possibly allowing for much smaller thermonuclear weapons. More so, it may be possible with anti-matter to completely remove the need for fissile components in thermonuclear warheads. This could be useful in civilian applications (in an Orion drive spacecraft, for example).
Also, assuming it is positrons, I'd imagine you might also have to worry slightly about relativistic background electrons and gamma rays/pair production, unless you're under 10ft+ of concrete. The extremely rare case that a 10^19 eV cosmic ray hits you head on sounds like an awesome way to possibly produce a spontaneous "detonation", or when some jokester thinks it's awesome to point a LINAC right at you.
If he has one now, he won't have it for much longer at this rate.
It releases lots of energy proportional to the mass, yes, but one proton + one anti-proton annihilating at a time, it's a very small explosion. And they only had 38 anti-protons.
I believe that one of the the articles quotes one of the Physicists saying that it "wouldn't even warm up a cup of coffee"
Edit here you go:
Prof Rob Thompson, head of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary, one of the 42 Alpha investigators, said: 'This is a major discovery. ... We've been able to trap about 38 atoms, which is an incredibly small amount, nothing like what we would need to power Star Trek's Starship Enterprise or even to heat a cup of coffee.'
It's not very much in everyday units.
"Atoms are neutral - they have no net charge - but they have a little magnetic character," explained Jeff Hangst of Aarhus University in Denmark, one of the collaborators on the Alpha antihydrogen trapping project.
"You can think of them as small compass needles, so they can be deflected using magnetic fields. We build a strong 'magnetic bottle' around where we produce the antihydrogen and, if they're not moving too quickly, they are trapped," he told BBC News.
Such sculpted magnetic fields that make up the magnetic bottle are not particularly strong, so the trick was to make antihydrogen atoms that didn't have much energy - that is, they were slow-moving.
So, basically, magic. I'm just curious what the specific limitation is (but realize it may not be trivial to explain without understanding the entire containment process better).
Neutral atoms still have a magnetic moment. These do interact with magnetic fields. I'm way over my head here, so won't attempt to explain more.
A message from the future...
Quantum mechanics is so cool!
Of course, dark energy makes that all impossible.
... so slightly less than saffron.
EDIT: eh wikipedia say 25gigabucks per gram, 62 trillion for antihydrogen
it is possible to hold on to atoms of antihydrogen in this way for about a tenth of a second.
(ex-antimatter == !(!matter) == matter)
Though you might have been lucky and gotten an antineutrino instead. Now you just have to find it...
If you have anti-matter it will annihilate with matter making gamma rays. Those gamma rays can then participate in pair production making an electron and an anti-electron (positron), but that only happens in a strong magnetic field.
That positron will then annihilate again if it meets an electron (maybe even the same one, but it doesn't have to be). Which would then make gamma ray, which can start the process again. You can theoretically do this over and over forever, but realistically the gamma ray will probably be absorbed in something. Also, I think the annihilation may make two gamma rays, dividing the energy.
Edit: Is your equation a joke on the english words, ex and anti?
1 KG of Hydrogen has ~1000 * 6.02 * 10 ^ 23 atoms.
@ 1 cent per atom that's 6.022 * 10 ^ 12 trillion dollors.
@ 1 million $ per atom that's 6.022 * 10 ^ 20 trillion dollors.
Not a single scientist thinks it does, but it's one of those things you just want confirmed.
Maybe you're thinking of exotic matter? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exotic_matter
The article doesn't really say, but why are beams needed? Is it because these (anti-)particles are always moving or have such a short lifespan, or is there some other reason beams are so important?
(The sci-fi nerd in me first thought of weaponizing it, but I hope that never happens)
I have to watch in again tonight.
Their developments are so fascinating to read about I can't wait to hear more.