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.