Thursday, December 09, 2010

Creating Something Out of Nothing

"Under just the right conditions—which involve an ultra-high-intensity laser beam and a two-mile-long particle accelerator—it could be possible to create something out of nothing, according to University of Michigan researchers.

The scientists and engineers have developed new equations that show how a high-energy electron beam combined with an intense laser pulse could rip apart a vacuum into its fundamental matter and antimatter components, and set off a cascade of events that generates additional pairs of particles and antiparticles.

"We can now calculate how, from a single electron, several hundred particles can be produced. We believe this happens in nature near pulsars and neutron stars," said Igor Sokolov, an engineering research scientist who conducted this research along with associate research scientist John Nees, emeritus electrical engineering professor Gerard Mourou and their colleagues in France.

"The basic question of what is a vacuum, and what is nothing, goes beyond science," he said. "It's embedded deeply in the base not only of theoretical physics, but of our philosophical perception of everything—of reality, of life, even the religious question of could the world have come from nothing."

Touching the very fabric of reality is nigh, something to think about as we move further into the 21st century under the threat of global warming and declining energy supplies. If this theoretical research proves out to be valid via experimentation, the implications of same goes beyond comprehension, particularly in the realm of creating enough clean energy able to meet the needs of our ravenous civilization not to mention the potential of developing propulsion systems of almost unimaginable power.

Star Trek anyone?

Addendum: A new theory positing how the ratio of matter/anti-matter in the formation of the multiverse came to be may explain how reality actually works.

In this matter-formation scenario, a new particle X and its antiparticle X-bar (of equal and opposite charge) are produced in the early Universe. X and X-bar are capable of coupling to quarks (the basic components of baryonic matter, e.g., protons and neutrons) in the visible sector as well as particles in a “hidden” sector (so-called because the particles in it interact only feebly with the visible sector). In this scenario X and X-bar would have been produced when the Universe heated up after inflation, in the first moments after at the start of the big bang.

Later, X and X-bar would decay, partly into visible baryons (specifically, a neutron made up of one up quark and two down quarks) and partly into hidden baryons. As the scientists explain, X decays to neutrons more often than X-bar decays to antineutrons. By the same amount, X-bar decays to hidden antiparticles more than X decays to hidden particles. In this scenario, the quarks would be the baryonic matter that makes up almost everything we see, and the hidden antibaryons would be what we know as dark matter. Through this yin-yang decay pattern, the positive baryon number of the visible matter is in balance with the negative baryon number of the dark matter.
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