Physicists Learn to Superfreeze Antimatter (Hint: Pew Pew!)

Victoria D. Doty

It’s not effortless. “Hydrogen is just definitely really hard to laser-amazing, since of these bloody ultraviolet lasers,” Hangst states.

The laser has to be exact at a bunch of distinctive work. “You have to definitely specifically command the frequency so we can do the Doppler shift,” states Takamasa Momose, a chemist at the University of British Columbia and one particular of the laser’s builders. Also, the laser has to put out more than enough energy in its pulses so the cooling doesn’t get endlessly.

But it can be not difficult. The staff built all that. And when they shot it at antihydrogen, it cooled off just like hydrogen would, presently a good signal.

To be apparent, it is not like you can just stick a thermometer into the magnetic lure. You measure this energy otherwise. Last yr, this same staff did spectroscopy on their antihydrogen, analyzing it by hunting at the spectra of light-weight it emits. Slower-going atoms emit a narrower spectrum, and when the scientists appeared at their publish-lasering atoms, which is exactly what individuals cold atoms did. They also examined their new benefits by examining how prolonged it took for their cooled atoms to bounce out of the group and strike the back again wall of their container (the place, of course, they annihilate). That is named “time of flight,” and cooler atoms ought to get for a longer time. They did.

Just as you cannot exactly get their temperature, you cannot point a radar gun at antihydrogen atoms, both. Antihydrogen usually flits all-around at about 100 meters per 2nd, states Fujiwara, and the ultracool atoms go at just about ten meters per 2nd. “If you’re rapidly more than enough, you could nearly capture the atom as it passed by,” he states. (It would annihilate one particular of your atoms, but you’re difficult.)

At this point, it is affordable to ask irrespective of whether this is all worth the trouble. Who demands incredibly sluggish, incredibly cold antimatter? The reply is, physicists. “Unless a little something is definitely screwy, this system is going to be essential, and possibly vital,” states Clifford Surko, a physicist at UC San Diego who is not on the Alpha staff. “The way I look at it as an experimentalist is, now you have bought a full ’nother bag of tricks, an additional deal with on the antihydrogen atom. That is definitely essential. It opens up new prospects.”

Those people prospects require figuring out irrespective of whether antimatter definitely does echo the physics of issue. Just take gravity: The equivalence principle in the principle of basic relativity states that gravitational interaction ought to be unbiased of irrespective of whether your issue is anti or not. But no one understands for positive. “We want to know what takes place if you have some antihydrogen and you fall it,” Hangst states.

Would not you? Certain. But this experiment is really hard to do, since gravity is truly a wuss. Scorching, gassy issues never drop so a lot as just bounce all-around. Antimatter would strike the partitions of the machine and annihilate. “Gravity is so bloody weak you may not see nearly anything at all,” Hangst states.

Sluggish that antihydrogen down to close to absolute zero, though, and it commences to act extra like a liquid than a gas. Down it blorps, instead of spraying all above. “The initial issue you want to know is, does antihydrogen go down? Because there’s a lunatic fringe out there that thinks it goes up—theorists who say there is repulsive gravity in between issue and antimatter,” Hangst states. “That would be rather amazing.”

Physicists never truly need to have laser cooling to see if antihydrogen functions like Jules Verne’s cavourite. That’d be … dramatic. “But if you presume now, as most theorists do, that antihydrogen will drop, then you want to ask, does it definitely drop in the same way?” Hangst asks. Precisely measuring acceleration owing to gravity is the short game for the dollars right here, and laser cooling may properly make it feasible.

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