back to article New antimatter atomsmashers 'may destroy themselves'

A top British atom-smasher boffin says that next-generation antimatter accelerators being planned to replace today's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are at significant risk of "destroying themselves", as they rend the very fabric of the universe apart in their search for cosmic secrets. The LHC has already shown that rashly …


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  1. Richard Gadsden 1

    LEP returns?

    The previous particle smasher before LHC was LEP, which was an electron-positron obliterator, so this sounds like a backward step.

  2. Sam Liddicott

    hurrah - I've been saved

    I've been saved from something I don't understand by something I don't understand but which can be compared to something I think I understand a bit.

    Isn't science marvelous?

  3. Falanx

    Switzerland browns out...

    And where are they going to get the energy required to make antimatter, and then hold it away from all the 'real' matter until they want to poke a hole in reality?

  4. Yorkshirepudding

    1 warp core breach please

    if we can collide matter and antimatter were not far off a warp drive? even so it makes a tasty cocktail

  5. Oliver Mayes

    Forget Antimatter...

    Wake me when they start using these things for playing conkers, then I'll be satisfied.

    Goggles, obviously.

  6. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    That was ace.

    Loved it. Brilliant article. Tongue in cheek level was just perfect!

  7. Scary


    If you've played the Doom games, you know what happens next.

  8. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge


    Google 'positron source'. It's not like that part is new science.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Re: LEP returns

    This is not a step backward. e+e- colliders are extremely better that pp [LHC]or ppbar [Tevatron] colliders. This is because all the energy is given to the collision, as opposed to hadron colliders, where the colliding gluons or quarks have only a fraction of the momentum of the proton. However the synchrotron radiation produced in circular lepton colliders is too great for them to be efficient, which is why CERN had to go with hadrons.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Google it.


  11. Toastan Buttar

    The Bells ! The Bells !

    By combining matter and anti-matter, would it be operating in a quasi-mode, oh ?

  12. ThomasF
    Big Brother

    Mike Oldfield was on to something

    Is " Life - The Universe and everything" matter- antimatter experiment really just another attemt to reisssue Tubular Bells

    Should we book a table at the resturant at the end of the Universe or has the Simon Cowel/Philip Green Mafia - block booked the lot

  13. Schultz

    Energy in = Energy out

    Careful wit that ax, Eugene.

  14. Michael 82

    @ scary

    If you've played Half-Life - You know what happens afterwards..

    Mines the one with the HEV badge on it

  15. The Original Ash

    Next generation collider

    Compact Linear Incidence Targeted Object Reduction Investigation Site.

    Male staff may require a map to find it.

  16. mark 120

    Next version of the LHC?

    LHC9000, Doom fans?

  17. Alex Walsh

    God yeah- @AC 12:14

    Imagine going back to the dark old days of tevatron colliders eh? That'd be madness.

  18. TeeCee Gold badge


    So what he's saying then is that the Compact Linear Collider is like the Large Hadron Collider with bells on it?

  19. Tom 7 Silver badge


    So rather than smash two 'lumps' of matter and antimatter together at 'one time' he proposes to 'merge' two streams of matter and antimatter together?

    Oh look at that result, now did that come from the fast bit there and a slow bit here or two fast bits and then a delay or was it ....

    At least I think that's what you said he was getting at..

  20. David S

    @TeeCee - Hee hee!


    Can I just say, I've been to Wake Field, and it wasn't an entirely happy experience. I don't know whether it's damaging to particle colliders, but I saw a car missing its wheels...

    Goggles on.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @By Anonymous Coward Posted Tuesday 6th October 2009 12:14 GMT

    I'm out of the loop from nuclear physics (became an IT consultant after getting a master of nuclear physics heh quite sad), but why do you say "This is not a step backward. e+e- colliders are extremely better that pp ", isn't there a synchrotron radiation in the e+e- colliders? Are they straight then?

  22. Anonymous Coward


    Yes, they are straight. Hence the Linear in the name.

  23. jubtastic1
    IT Angle

    Stack overflow error

    it was something about bells.

  24. g e


    I am not a quantum physicist but...

    If you have matter that has a certain amount of energy associated with it. It follows then that if you have anti matter then you have some anti energy surely?

    So if the collision between matter an un-matter creates energy that's very one-sided so should it not create un-energy too? Seems very one-sided otherwise.

    In that case might not the collision of matter and -matter create energy and -energy with the net result of nothing whatsoever and everyone thinking the machine didn't work??

    While in actuality the Gap Between The Nothing expanded ever so slightly....

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @g e

    "I am not a quantum physicist"

    Clearly... *rolls eyes*

  26. Alfred


    "If you have matter that has a certain amount of energy associated with it. It follows then that if you have anti matter then you have some anti energy surely?"

    No, that's just plain wrong.

  27. David Jones 3 Silver badge

    It's all about the numbers

    Once you get up above 1 TeV it doesn't matter so much whether or not you collide just matter or matter and anti-matter. The energy in a proton-antiproton collision is 4 GeV, about 1/500 of the kinetic energy of the accelerated particles. On the other hand, you can make millions of times more protons than anti-protons, so the "luminosity" of a proton-proton accelerator is much higher than that of a proton-antiproton collider. That's why the LHC doesn't use antiprotons.

    They need the high luminosity to look for the "signal" of the Higgs.

    There's a slight advantage in particle-antiparticle collisions in that the collision cancels all the quantum numbers of the particles and you get a cleaner result. If you want to make a particle like a Z boson from a proton-proton collision, you have to contend with all the quark debris, since the collision cannot turn quarks into something else. In an electron-positron collision, the result is pure energy, no residual particles. Proton-antiproton collisions are a bit messier, but still cleaner than proton-proton collisions.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ IANAQP

    Was this you?

  29. h4rm0ny

    @g e

    "If you have matter that has a certain amount of energy associated with it. It follows then that if you have anti matter then you have some anti energy surely?"

    Nope. Just energy of the "energy kind". Possibly you're thinking in terms of electrical charge, but if you have a bit of anti-matter whizzing around, that's "positive" energy (actually, just energy), and if it whizzes faster, it's got more energy. Kind of if you have a white car and a black car racing along, one doesn't have "white energy" and the other "black energy".

    Hope that helps.

  30. Whitter

    @g e


  31. Brett Brennan 1

    "Star Trek" already did this...

    Didn't Scotty have to cold mix matter and anti-matter to restart the warp drive in one of the eposides? The Enterprise certainly didn't explode or implode - they went on to a couple more seasons, movies, spin-off shows and lots of tie-in products...

  32. g e


    So... so... there's not really an anti-universe where all the cute fluffy women are really slinky black-clad evil dominatrix chicks with insatiable desires for power and gullible men ?

    It's all just part of one thing?

    SciFi will never seem the same again :o(

  33. HFoster

    Scientist in Problem-Solution Shocker!

    No drama in sight. As long as it works, it's all good.


  34. Anonymous Coward


    A Dan Brown book springs to mind....

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Sheer fucking poetry

    >"Only by lucky hap did bystanding boffins escape being transformed into frosty stalagmite statues."

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. Keep it up!

  36. Stevie Silver badge


    Scientists! Stop worrying about destroying the equipment or the world or whatever and DO SOME SCIENCE!

    By my reckoning you lot owe us the following:

    Flying Car

    Rocketshoes with an Altimeter in the heel

    Hangover-Be-Gone pills

    Consequence free instant cosmetic surgery as promised in "Babel-17". I want those wings you bastards.

    Warp Drives. You've had *years* to figure that one out, idiots!

    A proper space station that spins and has ordinary people living on it, not a bunch of oversized bean tins with a handful of astronauts and layabout scientists inside that hasn't even got a reliable Kharzi.

    A moonbase. A real one rather than the daft frame tent NASA plans for.

    Solar Power satellites.

    Space Elevator. Of course, right now there isn't any worthwhile place to elevate to since you've all been too busy reclassifying Pluto and unLake Huron instead of doing science.

    Pocket Tesla Coils. I don't know what they'd be used for, but I want one.

    Robots. Real robots that look like horrific metal caricatures of people, not those idiotic anglepoise lamp with a claw on the end you see in factories.

    Now get your collective finger out and start delivering!

  37. PunkTiger

    Extra-Large Hadron Collider

    Combining matter and antimatter... I don't see what the big deal is. Right now I'm combining pasta and antipasto in my stomach and I haven't blown up yet.

    As Magnus Pyke would probably say, "SCIENCE!"

  38. Random Coolzip


    "one doesn't have "white energy" and the other "black energy"."

    But what about all that talk about "black power" back in the early 70s? I believe it required an attenuator called "The Man" to keep it down.

  39. Nebulo


    "If you have a collection of huge bells all ringing at slightly different frequencies or tones, the amplitude or ‘wave height’ of the overall sound heard will be markedly smaller than that heard if they all ring at the same tone."

    I'm not entirely convinced by that analogy. If you've ever tried recording choral music, where you have a collection of human voices all singing at slightly different frequencies, you'll know why. The <average> level may be more-or-less constant and predictable, but every now and then when the phases add up just right (or wrong) you can get a momentary amplitude which pins your meter on the stop (analogue) or clips (digital), if you're not aware of the problem.

    And if one of those peaks is enough to create a "wake field" ... hang on, isn't that in Yorkshire? ... then, presumably, a super super burnout for your new toy.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can anti-matter move slower than zero?

    Just asking.

  41. asdf Silver badge

    lol producing wake rules

    Few things are as fun as going too fast with your 175hp outboard through a no wake swimming area causing all the swimmers to flail like fish and tipping over all the tools in canoes (jk jk not only illegal but pure douchebaggery as well). Still the image of doing so is worth a chuckle. Heres to controlling wake at the macro and nano level.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Re: h4rm0ny

    ...Kind of if you have a white car and a black car racing along, one doesn't have "white energy" and the other "black energy"...

    Nice analogy

    So if they collide head-on, is their impact speed the same regardless of speed before impact? Or is that a grey area?

    Mine's the cloak of invisibility over there,,,,,,,,,,, somewhere..

  43. Moonwolf

    Sod the bells ...

    ... where's the really hot cup of tea?

  44. drfreak

    Compact LInear Transmuter instead?

    Seems like the next logical step...

  45. Ben 38
    Thumb Up


    Check out SLAC. The story goes that when they built their linac, they had precision engineered cavities. The cavities did their job holding an EM wave to accelerate the particles, but because they were so well made each time a bunch of particles passed through a cavity it *induced* the same field. Subsequent bunches built up this field, inducing a 'wake field' instability in the beam, and ultimately beam loss. The solution... engineers literally hit each cavity with a hammer! The resulting dents changed the resonant frequency of each cavity, such that the induced fields in each cavity were different from one another. There was no resonant build up of beam instability, and SLAC went on to host the world's only linear collider.

    But anyway... CLIC?! Don't even worry about it - the technology (drive beam, super-duper low emittance) has never even been properly demonstrated. We've demonstrated ILC tech and can't even get the cash for that!

    Also ILC spaces its bunches out, so wakefields aren't too bad... no 'super-collider destroyed itself' stories to be had there. Probably.

  46. ryan 9
    IT Angle


    All right all you armchair physicists, I always thought that the large in Large Hadron Collider referred to the hadrons and not the collider. Am I a little bit dense because I didn't know that a proton is not a particularly large hadron or is it because that is part of the joke?

  47. Simpson

    What's that you say?

    "Damped Detuned Structures"

    Aka: A car muffler.

  48. Markus Imhof

    Do your homework first

    "The new design does have a cool new feature" - really? Electron - Positron colliders have been more or less commonplace for quite some years now. The most recent large one was LEP (yep: Large Electron Positron Collider), the first one was apperently built in the 60s ( ).

    Regarding the "Matter-antimatter reactions are the most powerful energy release possible" - well, yes, but the e+ - e- annihilation will yield 1.022 MeV per particle pair, while even LHC is aiming at the TeV range, some 6 orders of magnitude above that. Compared to the energy from the speed of the particles, the energy released just from the annihilation of the mass is almost[1] negligible. It's like crashing two trucks at 70 mph and then worrying about the energy released from a blown-up tyre.

    [1] almost as in negligible in the everyday sense, but not so if you want to study effects that happen 9 to 12 orders of magnitude less often than the commonplace results

  49. Dr Patrick J R Harkin


    Didn't understand a word.

  50. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Nomenclature for large scientific engineering projects

    CERNites should take a tip from their colleagues at the European Southern Observatory. The largest optical telescopes in the world today have mirrors of around 10m (e.g. the famous Keck telescopes on Hawaii - yes, being American, they had to build two of 'em.) 35-foot mirrors are tricky things to build, due to the accuracies required of the glass-polishers, which are of the order of the wavelength of light.)

    Doodling on napkins in Italian restaurants, the photon-bucket brigade chose straight-forward naming conventions for proposals to bust through the 10m barrier. Unfortunately it seems the OWL has too much poke for these cash-starved times, so they've gone for the ELT proposal instead, with a mere 42m aperture.

  51. ShaggyDoggy


    Don't they know that crossing the streams is extremely bad

  52. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: "Star Trek" already did this...

    Yes, but you forgot that there's a well known subatomic process whereby repeated mutterings about the impossibility of doing such things and the violation of physical laws required has a stabilising effect on the reaction.

    That's why the LHC is in so much trouble. There's been so much flannel about how dangerous it is that they'll be lucky to split billiard balls with it now.

  53. flannery

    No Mention of the ILC

    The ILC (International Linear Collider) [] is much closer to becoming a reality than CLIC.

    I wonder why no mention of it here. It too will be an electron positron collider.

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