In Greek mythology, Zeus hurled thunderbolts down from Mount Olympus whenever some uppity mortal or ravaging monster dared distract him from his carousing. New research suggests this mythological god-king would have had another weapon at his disposal as well: beams of antimatter.
Researchers working with the Fermi space telescope made the discovery while examining the gamma-ray flashes that thunderstorms are known to produce. (The multitasking Fermi can observe everything from gamma ray bursts in the most distant reaches of the universe to terrestrial phenomena.) The high-energy gamma-ray flashes are thought to be caused by the electrical fields produced during lightning storms.
You wash your hands before supper, and you irradiate your mammoths before public display. French customs requires the latter, so researchers plan to hit the world’s oldest baby mammoth with three days worth of gamma rays.
In July 2009, a hunter found the mammoth, now known as Khoma, partially frozen in Siberia. Foxes had used the animal as a giant chew toy, and it was missing bits of its head and trunk. Still, at over 50,000 years old Khoma was a prize: the oldest known mammoth infant.