York prof explains science behind 'Angels and Demons'

Scott Menary will explain the science behind the new movie, including his work on an experiment to produce andstore a sample of antimatter

 

York University
professor Scott Menary will explain the science behind the new movie
'Angels & Demons', including his work on an experiment to produce and
store a sample of antimatter, during a public lecture at York University on Thursday.

The film revolves around a plot to destroy the Vatican using antimatter stolen from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. The film stars Tom Hanks and is based on the best-selling book by Dan Brown.

“The premise in 'Angels & Demons' is that antimatter can be used like a bomb,” says Menary, a professor in York’s
Department of Physics & Astronomy. “When antimatter comes into
contact with matter it annihilates and is converted into pure energy,
which theoretically could be used in a destructive way. That’s probably
the most common question that anyone watching the movie will have, and
one that this lecture will examine.”

Scientists
generally accept that the universe began with the Big Bang. For every
particle of matter created in this event, a twin was also born: an
antiparticle identical in mass but with opposite electric charge.

“The
fundamental question is, ‘where did all the antimatter in the universe
go?’” says Menary. “For some unknown reason, as the universe evolved we
were left with only a minute amount of matter, and that forms
everything we see around us.”

Menary works on the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus experiment, dubbed ALPHA, at CERN. ALPHA involves the collaboration of Canadian scientists from UBC, Simon Fraser University, the University of Calgary, and Canada’s national particle physics laboratory, TRIUMF, as well as scientists from the United States, Brazil, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.

The experiment
involves attempting to combine antiprotons produced at CERN and
positrons (anti-electrons) from a radioactive source to make
antihydrogen atoms. The intention is then to trap and analyze a
significant sample of the antihydrogen atoms using laser spectroscopy.

”If
we can accomplish this, it will help us compare matter and antimatter
systems with unparalleled precision,” Menary says. “The more we can
learn about antimatter, the better we can understand the origins of the
universe and, ultimately, how we came to be.”

The lecture is part of a series taking place across the United States and Canada, organized by the international particle physics community.

 

The free lecture will take place 7:30 p.m. at York's Accolade West building.

 
 
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