Boris on Angels and Demons

By Mark Trodden | May 14, 2009 7:36 pm

boris_kayser_51609.jpg You may recall us mentioning that Fermilab and USLHC are organizing a series of simultaneous public lectures to coincide with tomorrow’s release of the movie “Angels and Demons.”

In Sean’s post, he quoted from an email from Boris Kayser, a Fermilab Distinguished Scientist who also chairs the Division of Particles and Fields of the American Physical Society. Boris isn’t just advertising this effort, but is rolling up his sleeves and getting involved himself, in a number of ways. One thing he’s doing is to take part in a Live Video Teleconference on Tuesday, with CERN’s director-general Rolf-Dieter Heuer, and Nobelist Leon Lederman. A few days before that, on Saturday afternoon, Boris is giving a public lecture in New Jersey.

But of most direct relevance for me is that after his Saturday afternoon lecture, Boris is jumping in his car and driving up to Philadelphia where, at 7:30 in the evening, in Claudia Cohen Auditorium, he’ll deliver a public lecture here at Penn.

Antimatter, Matter, and How We Came To Be: The Science Behind “Angels & Demons”

In the novel and movie “Angels & Demons,” a small droplet of antimatter threatens to
entirely destroy Vatican City. Antimatter, matter’s opposite, is quite real. Furthermore,
when antimatter and matter meet, they do destroy each other. The universe is safe for life
only because there is virtually no antimatter in it. Yet, scientists believe that just after the
Big Bang at the beginning of the universe, there were equal amounts of antimatter and

In this lecture, we will explain what antimatter is, and how it is related to matter. We will
describe the efforts of scientists to understand how the universe, starting out with equal
amounts of antimatter and matter, came to be a world with almost no antimatter, so that
we can exist.

If you’re in the Philly area I hope you’ll consider dropping by to see the talk. If you happen to have read my three-part discussion on the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe, starting here, you should find Boris’ walk through the material an interesting new perspective. If you haven’t read my series (what is wrong with you?), then the lecture should be a wonderful introduction.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Society
  • Peter de Blanc

    If the universe were shaped like a Mobius strip, would your matter switch to antimatter if you traveled a full loop?

  • Mark

    I haven’t thought much about non-orientable manifolds, but fermions, for example, are presumably problematic on them.

  • David Martin Degner

    I think the reason there is no anti-matter is because light does not have an ant-matter counterpart, or as some would say is it’s own antiparticle. Photons are of course all ExB (Poynting vector) and BxE doesn’t exist.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    …came to be a world with almost no antimatter, so that
    we can exist.

    I can’t support Boris’ teleology.

  • wds

    I realise it’s a great chance to get some real science out there, but can we do it without further propping up Dan Brown’s awful books?

  • DP in CA

    Admitting at the start my ignorance of these things, I ask something I’ve wondered for a while: how do we KNOW that other galaxies are matter and not antimatter?

    A thought experiment: nuts and raisins annihilate each other when they come in contact. Pour some nuts and some raisins into a bowl of oatmeal and stir it up. Some places, the nuts and raisins will annihalte each other, leaving empty… oatmeal. But some other places, there will be just raisins, and some other places, there will be just nuts. Why couldn’t random fluctuations in the prevalence of matter and antimatter in the beginning universe have resulted in galaxies and anti-galaxies in equal measure, with empty space insulating them from each other?

    Or am I just nuts?

  • coolstar

    I just saw Angels and Demons (yeah, Brown’s a hack, but the movies so far have been better and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) I actually left much less disgusted by the science there than that in the new Star Trek movie (which ruined my enjoyment of that movie except for the caricatures of old characters and plot themes). There are lots of things to dislike about Angels and Demons, but it’s always fun (if painful) watching a fine actor (Tom Hanks) deliver some of the worst dialogue ever written……
    Movie trivia: see if you can spot the FIRST scene Ron’s dad Rance Howard is in (I will admit to not seeing Clint, guess I’ll have to depend upon IMDB).

  • Mark

    That’s a good question DP in CA, and a priori one might think this is how things work. However, it turns out that there are actually extremely stringent bounds on the extent to which one can have separated regions of matter and antimatter, of any size, in the universe.

    In particular, one can bound them by considering the observable effects of annihilations at their boundaries. A nice analysis here

    shows that:

    We ask whether the universe can be a patchwork consisting of distinct regions of matter and antimatter. We demonstrate that, after recombination, it is impossible to avoid annihilation near regional boundaries. We study the dynamics of this process to estimate two of its signatures: a contribution to the cosmic diffuse gamma-ray background and a distortion of the cosmic microwave background. The former signal exceeds observational limits unless the matter domain we inhabit is virtually the entire visible universe. On general grounds, we conclude that a matter-antimatter symmetric universe is empirically excluded.

  • John R Ramsden

    Mark, it would be easier if you posted links to all three of your posts, or to the final installment, because the first doesn’t link to later ones.

    I think the guys who wrote the ArXiv paper Trapped Inflation (2009-02-24) may be on the right track in relation to BAU.

    The idea, as I understand it, is that the expansion of space hits “sweet spots” at certain rates, causing a sudden release of mass and consequent sharp drop in the expansion rate, analogous to latent heat of condensation (and perhaps the same kind of phenomenon as mass inflation in black holes?).

    If a sudden release of matter and antimatter actually occurs either side of a particular expansion rate, then that would be the most natural way an assymetry could occur, because obviously (it seems to me) less matter would be produced at the slower rate.

    Furthermore, there could be several generations, perhaps dozens, and surviving “exotic” matter from earlier ones would be spread out so far that the cosmic horizon would span less than one wavelength, in which case (according to Sean a while ago, if I didn’t misinterpret him) its mass-energy would fade back into the underlying space.

    On that assumption, dark energy may simply be stretched exotic matter remnants from earlier generations being “returned to the pot” so to speak. It all sounds a bit incestuous I must admit, with energy stored as spread out mass being converted back to a form that drives the further expansion of space (and the same mechanism perhaps being responsible for this expansion throughout the inflationary period).

  • John R Ramsden

    Just a couple of notes to the previous reply, in the hope I’m not pushing my luck amateur-wise.

    Firstly, for clarity, I meant “less antimatter would be produced at the slower rate than matter at the faster rate, so that subsequent anihilations would leave the observed excess of matter”.

    Also, the same principle would apply if successive sweet spots alternated between producing matter and antimatter, although in that scenario the larger disparity in energy between the matter generations might make these less likely to recombine uniformly.

    Finally, it may be thought that particles would never “spread out” in the manner envisaged, and if QM or something dictates that this must be so then I’d concede the idea is nonsense. But would that always apply when space is expanding at faster than light speed, as it was during inflation? After all, even hovering near a black hole, one observes particles spreading out over the event horizon.

  • John R Ramsden

    An interesting (non-kook by the look of it and the category) ArXiv paper was released last week, titled Dark energy: the absolute electric potential of the universe

  • Dov Henis

    It’s simpler than we imagine…

    Energy-Mass Superposition
    The Fractal Oneness Of The Universe

    The universe is the archetype of quantum within classical physics, which is the fractal oneness of the universe.

    Astronomically there are two physics, a classical physics behaviour of and between galactic clusters, and a quantum physics behaviour WITHIN the galactic clusters.

    The onset of big-bang’s inflation, the cataclysmic resolution of the Original Superposition, started gravity, with formation – by dispersion – of galactic clusters that behave as classical Newtonian bodies and continuously reconvert their original pre-inflation masses back to energy, thus fueling the galactic clusters expansion, and with endless quantum-within-classical intertwined evolutions WITHIN the clusters in attempts to delay-resist this reconversion.

    Dov Henis
    (Comments from 22nd century)–?cq=1
    On Energy, Mass, Gravity, Galaxies Clusters, AND Life
    A Commonsensible Recapitulation
    Updated Life’s Manifest May 2009


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About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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