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Antimatter is matter that is composed of the antiparticles of those that constitute ordinary matter. If a particle and its antiparticle come into contact with each other, the two annihilate; that is, they may both be converted into other particles with equal energy in accordance with Albert Einstein's equation E = mc2. These new particles may be high-energy photons (gamma rays) or other particle–antiparticle pairs. The resulting particles are endowed with an amount of kinetic energy equal to the difference between the rest mass of the products of the annihilation and the rest mass of the original particle–antiparticle pair, which is often quite large. Depending on which definition of "matter" is adopted, antimatter can be said to be a particular subclass of matter, or the opposite of matter.

Antimatter is not found naturally on Earth, except very briefly and in vanishingly small quantities (as the result of radioactive decay, lightning or cosmic rays). This is because antimatter that came to exist on Earth outside the confines of a suitable physics laboratory would almost instantly meet the ordinary matter that Earth is made of, and be annihilated. Antiparticles and some stable antimatter (such as antihydrogen) can be made in tiny amounts, but not in enough quantity to do more than test a few of its theoretical properties.

There is considerable speculation both in science and science fiction as to why the observable universe is apparently almost entirely matter (in the sense of quarks and leptons but not antiquarks or antileptons), and whether other places are almost entirely antimatter (antiquarks and antileptons) instead. In the early universe, it is thought that matter and antimatter were equally represented, and the disappearance of antimatter requires an asymmetry in physical laws called CP (charge-parity) symmetry violation, which can be obtained from the Standard Model,[48] but at this time the apparent asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the visible universe is one of the great unsolved problems in physics. Possible processes by which it came about are explored in more detail under baryogenesis.

Formally, antimatter particles can be defined by their negative baryon number or lepton number, while "normal" (non-antimatter) matter particles have positive baryon or lepton number.[49] These two classes of particles are the antiparticle partners of one another.

In October 2017, scientists reported further evidence that matter and antimatter, equally produced at the Big Bang, are identical, should completely annihilate each other and, as a result, the universe should not exist.[50][51] This implies that there must be something, as yet unknown to scientists, that either stopped the complete mutual destruction of matter and antimatter in the early forming universe, or that gave rise to an imbalance between the two forms.

Conservation of matter

Two quantities that can define an amount of matter in the quark–lepton sense (and antimatter in an antiquark–antilepton sense), baryon number and lepton number, are conserved in the Standard Model. A baryon such as the proton or neutron has a baryon number of one, and a quark, because there are three in a baryon, is given a baryon number of 1/3. So the net amount of matter, as measured by the number of quarks (minus the number of antiquarks, which each have a baryon number of −1/3), which is proportional to baryon number, and number of leptons (minus antileptons), which is called the lepton number, is practically impossible to change in any process. Even in a nuclear bomb, none of the baryons (protons and neutrons of which the atomic nuclei are composed) are destroyed—there are as many baryons after as before the reaction, so none of these matter particles are actually destroyed and none are even converted to non-matter particles (like photons of light or radiation). Instead, nuclear (and perhaps chromodynamic) binding energy is released, as these baryons become bound into mid-size nuclei having less energy (and, equivalently, less mass) per nucleon compared to the original small (hydrogen) and large (plutonium etc.) nuclei. Even in electron–positron annihilation, there is no net matter being destroyed, because there was zero net matter (zero total lepton number and baryon number) to begin with before the annihilation—one lepton minus one antilepton equals zero net lepton number—and this net amount matter does not change as it simply remains zero after the annihilation.[52]

In short, matter, as defined in physics, refers to baryons and leptons. The amount of matter is defined in terms of baryon and lepton number. Baryons and leptons can be created, but their creation is accompanied by antibaryons or antileptons; and they can be destroyed, by annihilating them with antibaryons or antileptons. Since antibaryons/antileptons have negative baryon/lepton numbers, the overall baryon/lepton numbers aren't changed, so matter is conserved. However, baryons/leptons and antibaryons/antileptons all have positive mass, so the total amount of mass is not conserved. Further, outside of natural or artificial nuclear reactions, there is almost no antimatter generally available in the universe (see baryon asymmetry and leptogenesis), so particle annihilation is rare in normal circumstances.

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