Yesterday we learned that physicists working on the ALPHA Project at CERN successfully contained a stable sample of antimatter--antihydrogen specifically--for 1,000 seconds this spring. Since the term "antimatter" first hit the pages of Nature in 1898, scientists have speculated over the possibilities of an opposing force of nature, a push to counteract the pull of Newton's gravity. The next hundred years would prove to be a century of dreaming what antimatter could do--from creating an infinite supply of renewable energy to producing for fuel intergalactic rockets. And as a dream has the idea largely remained since then as, despite mounting evidence for its existence, scientists could not produce and contain a sample antimatter long enough to study it. That is, until this month, they couldn't.
The recent 1,000-second achievement is about 999.8 seconds longer than physicists' first attempt to stabilize antimatter a year ago. Antimatter by its very definition is the antithesis of matter, as each of its parts is the opposite to the particles regular matter counterpart. So imagine one regular hydrogen atom, made up of a single proton and an electron. An antihydrogen atom would consist of an antiproton and a positron, a particle identical in mass to an electron but opposite in charge. When the two meet, the opposite particles annihilate each other in a huge burst of energy. At CERN, physicists successfully built a magnetic container for the antimatter particles using superconducters, and managed to keep the particles stable for the 16 minutes and 40 seconds--1,000 seconds.