back to article Boffins trapped antiprotons for days, still can't say why they survived the Big Bang

One of the outstanding questions in physics is why matter and antimatter didn't wipe each other out at the Big Bang?” A new, hyper-accurate measurement of an antiproton characteristic at CERN leaves that difficult question entirely intact. In Nature last week, boffins from the CERN BASE (Baryon Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment) …

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  1. Joe Werner

    The universe will now disappear

    in a puff of logical smoke ;)

    Cool stuff, I'll read the paper later when the VPN works as advertised... not sure if my end is the problem or the uni :/

    1. ExampleOne

      Re: The universe will now disappear

      If reality doesn't match theory, discard reality.

      1. malle-herbert Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: The universe will now disappear

        "I reject your reality and substitute my own !"

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: The universe will now disappear

          How can we prove that the universe actually exists outside of our own minds ?

          1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            Your mind must be better than mine then! So rather easy from my point of view!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            > How can we prove that the universe actually exists outside of our own minds ?

            What difference would it make if it didn't?

          3. Surreal
            Mushroom

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            Phenomenology? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9-Niv2Xh7w

          4. Captain DaFt

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            How can we prove that the universe actually exists outside of our own minds ?

            Well for me it's simple: Contemplating the wonders of the Universe, and the near infinite combinations of crass stupidity and sublime genius inherent in most people, I couldn't dream this stuff up if I lived a billion lifetimes!

          5. oldfartuk

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            See the John Carpenter movie "Dark Star" where the crew discuss this exact problemn with an AI planet buster bomb.

            althought the bomb DID go off neverther less.

      2. LaFin

        Re: The universe will now disappear

        Half of the UK have already done that.....

      3. Nial

        Re: The universe will now disappear

        "If reality doesn't match theory, discard reality"

        Ah, so you're a climate 'scientist'?

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: The universe will now disappear

          "If reality doesn't match theory, discard reality"

          Ah, so you're a climate 'scientist'?

          Ah, so you're a climate science denier.

          If you liked denying climate science, you may also like:

          • Denying evolution
          • Homepoathy
          • Crystal healing
          • Donald Trump

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            "Ah, so you're a climate science denier."

            Err...so speaks a non scientist

            Scientists must always question any hypothesis, which current climate models are as they don't predict what is happening currently (always jam tomorrow).

            Any Theory and even Laws must be constantly questioned if you are a real scientist, that is how we discover new science!!!

            The photoelectric effect was not predicted by classical physics and Einstein initiated the idea of photons to solve it (what he got his Nobel prize for), this was the beginning of quantum mechanics.

            Newtons Laws of Gravity were also challenged by General Relativity and proved to be only local approximations lacking a knowledge of spacetime.

            By your definition you would call Einstein a science denier.

            Side note: evolution as suggested by Darwin is no longer considered how evolution works as he was not aware of how DNA works, evolution has evolved. So if you deny Darwinian evolution that is currently the correct thing to do!!

            1. David Nash Silver badge

              Re: The universe will now disappear

              "Scientists must always question any hypothesis, which current climate models are as they don't predict what is happening currently (always jam tomorrow)."

              Question doesn't mean deny. It means look for the evidence, and as I understand it the overwhelming majority of climate scientists look at the evidence and draw conclusions from that.

              "Any Theory and even Laws must be constantly questioned if you are a real scientist, that is how we discover new science!!!"

              Yes if the evidence doesn't match the Theory.

              "The photoelectric effect was not predicted by classical physics and Einstein initiated the idea of photons to solve it (what he got his Nobel prize for), this was the beginning of quantum mechanics."

              This wss not denying anything, it's explaining something that was until then unexplained!

              "Newtons Laws of Gravity were also challenged by General Relativity and proved to be only local approximations lacking a knowledge of spacetime."

              Same as above.

              "By your definition you would call Einstein a science denier."

              Not at all, see above!

              "Side note: evolution as suggested by Darwin is no longer considered how evolution works as he was not aware of how DNA works, evolution has evolved. So if you deny Darwinian evolution that is currently the correct thing to do!!"

              Darwinian evolution has been modified with additional detail (the mechanism of DNA) and tweaked in places, not denied.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The universe will now disappear

                Name one single climate model that has actually correctly predicted the current climate in the last 10 years not one.

                They are all wrong !!!!

                1. Yes Me Silver badge
                  Headmaster

                  Re: The universe will now disappear

                  "They are all wrong !"

                  Wrong. They are all approximations. Every scientific theory is an approximation; the question is how good (or bad) an approximation. Newtonian mechanics stood until Special Relativity came along, and Special Relativity stood until General Relativity came along. General Relativity and quantum theory are both very good approximations, but since they are inconsistent with each other, they are in fact both wrong in exactly the same way that the IPCC models are wrong - because all approximations are wrong, by your definition.

                  Climate models are hard - much harder than relativity and quantum mechanics, in a mathematical sense. So it's no surprise that they are less good approximations than physics.

                  As for the universe, yes, if it turns out that we're in a freaky area where matter predominates, then eventually we'll annihilate with another freaky area where antimatter predominates. So what? You'll never know about [bit stream suddenly ends]

                  1. Kiwi Silver badge
                    Trollface

                    Re: The universe will now disappear

                    "They are all wrong !"

                    Wrong. They are all approximations.

                    Ah! So you believe that pi=3!

                    1. Paul 129
                      Joke

                      Re: The universe will now disappear

                      Ah! So you believe that pi=3!

                      No pi=4!

                      Read information about squaring of the circle. Didn't some US county try to legislate it?

                      Joke icon, as its amazing how people cannot understand a constant of proportionality.

                      P.S.

                      Actually I reckon pi is taught wrong. Give young kids ( 8 - 12 ) a number measuring wheels with different diameters (stupidly small and stupidly large for teachers). Measure graph and explain proportions, linked to circles, done.

                  2. oldfartuk

                    Re: The universe will now disappear

                    Well the problem with Climate science is, as Karl Popper pointed out, its total lack of falsifiability. There must be a set of parameters which show the theory is false. These are usually the opposite of the parameters that show its true. With climate science, EVERY set of parameters is used to 'prove' it, including totally opposite and contradictory parameters. Ergo the lack of falsifiability is, as it stands, s fatal to its credibility.

                    And the other thing that doesnt help is the massive manipulation of data that goes on to make it fit the required graphs. University of East Anglia has been cauight out twice fiddling the data, as well as other bodies, making up, discarding, cherry picking data. Its nonsense. Lets see the RAW data, and see how it fits.

              2. Kiwi Silver badge
                Alien

                Re: The universe will now disappear

                "Any Theory and even Laws must be constantly questioned if you are a real scientist, that is how we discover new science!!!"

                Yes if the evidence doesn't match the Theory.

                Funny you say that, and yet you support the "climate change" guff?

                I said this a couple of years (or more) back, and it's still the same today. I can go to various beaches around the area (example Petone beach) and the sea level is basically unchanged from the late 1800s or early 1900s when the wharf was built (may've been 1907, you can have fun with a search engine).

                Mean and max sea levels are the same as back then, slightly changed since 1840 (but then in 1840 things changed very suddenly and significantly at the time).

                Yet the "climate change" stuff we were being fed not that long ago said we'd have sea level rises of several metres by now, and I'd drown if I tried to stand on the roof of the tallest building in the area without scuba gear (IIRC one quote was along the lines of "Need scuba gear to stand on the World Trade Center")

                Oh, of course. I forgot. It's "Isostatic rebound" which magically exactly matches the rate of sea level rise. Sea level has risen 10m in the last 20 years, but the earth's crust has also miraculously risen by the same amount! Anyone who believes this stuff and also wants to put down Christianity should wonder much about their own mind.

            2. Pat Harkin
              Coat

              Re: The universe will now disappear

              "Scientists must always question any hypothesis"

              I question your hypothesis that scientists must question any hypothesis. By questioning your hypothesis, I hypothesise the existince of hypotheses which cannot be questioned. If my hypothesis is shown to be correct, your hypothesis is thus disproven. If my hypothesis is shown to be incorrect, then your hypothesis is shown to be unquestionable and hence disproves itself.

              I have now typed the word "hypothesis" so often that it has lost all meaning.

          2. Kiwi Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            Ah, so you're a climate science denier.

            Nope, I don't believe in the IPCC stated reasons for climate change, and especially their much-touted "solutions" that will fix nothing for the mere cost of making things worse. Climate is changing, the rate, causes etc and what the IPCC claim are mutually exclusive.

            If you liked denying climate science, you may also like:

            Denying evolution

            Unproven constantly changing "theory" that has been shown time and again to be rubbish - by people who can understand science and aren't scared to actually promote truth over the other stuff.

            Homepoathy

            Crystal healing

            They're in the same category of "science" as "evolution".

            Donald Trump

            He makes evolution-believers look sane!

          3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

            Re: The universe will now disappear

            @Loyal Commenter

            Crystal healing

            Dilithium Crystals excepted!

  2. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

    here's a thought...

    I once heard, from a reputable engineering person that might actually know stuff about theoretical physics, that anti-particles are [or are suspected to be] particles moving backwards in time. This is mostly because they have opposite spin, so "in theory" maybe it's true, like observing a coin flip creates a reality and a theoretical universe where "the opposite" came up, right?. OK fine, Schroedinger's cat IS both alive and dead [as stated in an article a couple of years ago, on El Reg even, when it was proved by experimentation].

    I occasionally glean interesting information about such things on "teh intarwebs", some of which may be valid, and a lot of which falls into the perpetual motion category of bullcrap "science".

    Today I'm thinking, WHAT IF it's true that anti-particles move backwards in time?

    Well, at the big bang, was there time *BEFORE* the bang? Answer: no.

    So, how can it create ANTI-PARTICLES??? And now you have it!

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

      Time is nothing more than entropy...

      So anti-particles moving backwards in time would fit nicely in the "bullcrap" category...

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

      I'm not sure this antiparticles moving backwards in time makes much sense, to be honest. First, both particles and antiparticles have positive spin, because spin is a magnitude. If electrons are paired, one has spin 1/2 and one has spin -1/2, but that just means that one is a 'vector' in the opposite direction to the other, there is no sense in which one is negative and one positive.

      Second, when a neutron decays, a proton, electron and antineutrino are created. How does that antineutrino know to be there if it's going back in time? (One solution is that there are antineutrinoes everywhere, just itching to be part of a neutron decay, but that is a bit of a cop out, as although there are lots of antineutrinoes, they aren't everywhere.)

      I think what is meant is that the laws of interaction work the same for anitparticles with negative time as particles with positive time. But that doesn't mean to say that antiparticles travel backwards through time, any more than since I was somewhere else yesterday I will travel backwards to there through time. Antiparticles cannot send information to the past.

      1. James 51 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        @DavCrav Have you done some of the science writing for star trek?

      2. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        "Second, when a neutron decays, a proton, electron and antineutrino are created. How does that antineutrino know to be there if it's going back in time?"

        Similar to the way that Quantum Electrodynamics works. You predict the way that a photon will travel by looking at all the possible paths that it might take, however unlikely, and add them all together (that is of course horribly oversimplified). The antineutrino could take all possible paths and settle on the one that gets to the interaction that 'creates' it.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

          or from the perspective of the antiparticle that was ejected from a nucleus (or a neutron, etc.), it arrives to create that very nucleus/particle that it was allegedly being 'ejected' from...

          then again, anti-time really just has velocity going "the other way" along the time axis. We experience time in motion, so anti-time [I suppose] would be moving 'the other way'.

          If time were created in the Big Bang then it would have been created ALL ALONG THE AXIS like everything else. So all time events were created simultaneously, but "not at the same time". OK is that too esoteric?

    3. Doctor_Wibble
      Paris Hilton

      Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

      I remember reading a theory about electrons doing this? Long enough ago to be even more vague than usual - where a particle or possibly a quantum thingy is emitted but is met halfway by an equal and opposite one to neutralise it.

      The question being how does the other one know it will be needed unless it knew in advance or is in fact in a constant state of going through time backwards so it left its own source at the same time as the other one and they met in the middle and neutralised but how does that work because we don't do time travel outside of Dr Who and that one when SG-1 went to 1969 and quite frankly there's no way in hell that half a dozen truck engines will generate enough power to make the thing work but we let them get away with it because it was a fun episode?

      *and breathe*

      1. Rob D. Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        Beer for the appropriate and necessary use of the term 'quantum thingy'.

    4. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

      The idea of antiparticles being particles travelling backwards in time is built into Feynman diagrams. (Let me quote Wikipedia, "Thus, antiparticles are represented as moving backward along the time axis in Feynman diagrams.") So, yes, when an anti-neutrino arrives at a beta decay it is arriving from the future. Whether this is true in reality or a convenient fiction is another matter, but it's consistent with relativity where time is only a coordinate and makes the maths work.

      Where Bob goes wrong is speculating that antimatter isn't created. The semi-rigorous take on this is that anti-matter was created but went backwards in time. So the Big Bang spawned two universe one with positive and one with negative time.

      1. lorisarvendu

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        "So the Big Bang spawned two universe one with positive and one with negative time."

        Hmmm...so if this is the case, we have a universe composed of anti-matter (call it the "anti-verse") moving backwards in time, and a universe (the "posi-verse") of matter moving forwards in time.

        What we know of the posi-verse (where we live) is that it appears to have no naturally-occurring anti-matter in it. So one could assume that the anti-verse has no naturally-occurring positive matter in it.

        But if the anti-verse is created in the Big Bang, and goes backwards...then presumably it is created at the end of its life, in the same way as the posi-verse is created at the beginning of its life. So this would mean the anti-verse starts out running backwards from a Big Crunch. Which means the anti-verse has a definite beginning and end...only from our POV seen in reverse. But if that is the case, then it must mean that our universe also has a beginning and end - it dies in a Big Crunch, which occurs in tandem with the anti-verse's Big Bang.

        Ok, so we have two universes essentially moving "past" each-other in parallel, both heading from Big Bang to Big Crunch, but in opposite directions. Who's to say that they're not actually the same universe, only seen from different perspectives? Presumably there is a singular moment halfway through each of their long existances where both universes are absolutely identical...before they move apart once more, one compressing backwards in time, the other expanding forwards.

        Does rather sound like the sort of story Isaac Asimov would have written.

        1. Not also known as SC

          Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

          "But if the anti-verse is created in the Big Bang, and goes backwards...then presumably it is created at the end of its life",

          No, because the entire anti-verse would be aging but just through 'negative' time. Imagine a cone with its point placed on the mirror. The further you are away from the point, the further you are from the cones' 'creation'. The real cone is our universe, and the mirror image of the cone would be the anti-verse. Both start at a point and expand away from that point. However each universe is moving away from its creation point and an observer wouldn't know which universe they were in, both universes would show the same expansion etc.

        2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

          "...then presumably it is created at the end of its life...So this would mean the anti-verse starts out running backwards from a Big Crunch.

          There is one "explosion". Antimatter particles zoom off backwards in time, building ever more complicated structures (antimatter atoms, antimatter stars and antimatter galaxies) while normal particles do the same in the forward direction; i.e. the antimatter universe is created at the beginning of it's anti-life. (More formally, "both" "universes" are created in a low entropy state and entropy proceeds to increase in their respective time direction.)

          Typically a Big Crunch is seen as being akin to being sucked into a giant black hole: it's a merger of complicated systems (i.e. it's a high entropy event). So, yes, we would see antiparticles converging at our big bang from some point in our distant past. But it wouldn't look like a Big Crunch as we'd experience it. And to argue that's what's happening would be to argue that negative numbers start at minus infinity and proceed to increase until they reach zero: it's technically correct but not practically useful; better to say negative numbers start at zero and decrease towards (minus) infinity. In particular, intelligent life composed of antimatter and living in the antiuniverse would see cause and effect rippling outwards form the same big bang that created us, just like we do.

          Time reversing Big Bang-Big Crunch scenarios do exist. I think yours has the added disadvantage that all matter has to be converted into antimatter. At any rate, the idea of there only being one electron travelling backwards and forwards was proposed by Wheeler to Feynman, and inspired him in the design of Feynman diagrams, which is where we started.

          1. lorisarvendu

            Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

            "Time reversing Big Bang-Big Crunch scenarios do exist. I think yours has the added disadvantage that all matter has to be converted into antimatter."

            That's the bit I'm not sure about. If we could somehow view this hypothetical universe, would we see it like a movie being run backwards? (ignoring the fact that photons would presumably be absorbed where in our universe they would normally be emitted, so we wouldn't see anything) So from our point of view we would see matter falling out of black holes and coalescing into suns? I can't get my head round the concept that a universe formed in a Big Bang that then proceeds backwards in time, hasn't emerged from a played-backwards collapse.

            This is the trouble with reading sci-fi but not understanding cosmology.

        3. Mark York 3 Silver badge
          Alien

          Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

          Sounds rather like "A Matter of Balance" from Space:1999 second series.

          Unfortunately written by Pip & Jane Baker best\later known for crimes against script writing for Doctor Who.

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0706310/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        "So the Big Bang spawned two universe one with positive and one with negative time."

        ... and if it is possible for fragments of the -ve time uiniverse to appear in the +ve time one then that would explain Withernsea.

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        "So the Big Bang spawned two universe one with positive and one with negative time."

        I like that. makes more sense, yeah. It also "balances" like most atomic things [the reason why the question of 'why is there no anti-matter']

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

      "anti-particles are [or are suspected to be] particles moving backwards in time."

      I think this was one of Feynman's notions, possibly in conjunction with Wheeler. It's in one of his books. The suggestion was that there was only a single electron zipping forwards & backwards (as a positron). It explained why all electrons looked alike - they were the same electron. I don't think they took the idea very far.

      1. Not also known as SC

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        "The suggestion was that there was only a single electron zipping forwards & backwards (as a positron). It explained why all electrons looked alike - they were the same electron. I don't think they took the idea very far."

        I remember this being taught when I was at University in the late eighties.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        "I think this was one of Feynman's notions"

        Feynman sells books when he says things like that. I just get downvotes from the 'Howler Monkeys'.

    6. deconstructionist

      Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

      Baryon's or Antibaryon's both move through time at the speed of light is one direction forward.....next

    7. swm Bronze badge

      Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

      If you look at the mathematics of a photon scattering off of an electron you have to include a term containing positrons. This is a mathematical construct. It is true that the mathematics of a positron are that of an electron traveling backwards in time. Feynman diagrams are merely a computational aid to writing down the correct quantum field equations. If you look at the rules an antiparticle acts like a particle traveling backwards in time.

      But this is just the mathematics. The physics content is the identification of a mathematical construct with a physical "reality". You start with a physical situation, map it into the appropriate mathematical construct, perform mathematical operations, and map the result back to a physical situation. The intermediate calculations don't map to reality - especially in quantum field theory.

      1. lorisarvendu

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        "But this is just the mathematics. The physics content is the identification of a mathematical construct with a physical "reality". You start with a physical situation, map it into the appropriate mathematical construct, perform mathematical operations, and map the result back to a physical situation. The intermediate calculations don't map to reality - especially in quantum field theory."

        Ah gotcha. Like the imaginary number "i". There isn't a "real" dimension where numbers are all imaginary, it's just a construct to allow you to continue past the thorny "square root of minus one" bit.

      2. MT Field

        Re: anti-particles "moving backwards in time" ?

        But still there are teams currently attempting to measure the weight of anti-matter - that is determine if the interaction with gravity is exactly the same as normal matter, or otherwise ..

  3. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Maybe Douglas Adams was right and the universe is like a giant pendulum and goes back and forth? Therefore what is an anti-particle in this universe will be a normal one in the next.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not posit that (in any given big bang) there will be some excess of one or the other polarity of matter, as a result of Quantum Uncertainty?

      I know I know, not very rigourous. Just my 'gut' feeling, really.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "Why not posit that (in any given big bang) there will be some excess of one or the other polarity of matter, as a result of Quantum Uncertainty?

        I know I know, not very rigourous. Just my 'gut' feeling, really."

        The obvious cheat solution is the anthropic principle. We cannot see all the universes where matter and antimatter annihilate each other, only ones that don't have this property.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We can...

          See all the other universes. We know some of the probabilities that are required to make those universes. We also know some of the available space for life to exist.

          The two still don't match up enough to conclude it was a pure fluke. And as other discoveries show, life did not magically appear by chance as Boltzmann brains, it was a gradual and refined process. Likewise with star formation, galaxies and finally... do you suggest the Universe is a break in that rule?

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