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Air Force Researching Antimatter Weapons 1062

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the build-a-bigger-gun dept.
mlmitton writes "The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Air Force is actively pursuing antimatter weapons. Such weapons would easy eclipse nuclear weapons in power, e.g., 1 gram of antimatter would equal 23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy. Perhaps more interesting, after an initial inquiry by the Chronicle in the summer, the Air Force issued a gag order that prohibits any Air Force employee from discussing antimatter research or funding."
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Air Force Researching Antimatter Weapons

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  • by tntguy (516721) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:00PM (#10432579)

    e.g., 1 gram of antimatter would equal 23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy

    How much energy is that in Burning Libraries of Congress? I'm not entirely up to speed on these new-fangled measurements. Rods an' hogsheads, for me!

  • by Wizzy Wig (618399) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:01PM (#10432588)
    SSFTs are now units of energy?
  • Oooops (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:02PM (#10432604)
    In other news... The air force research center suddenly dissappeared along with 200.000 square kilometers of land. Nobody from the research center was available for comment.
  • Really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jsoffron (718739) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:03PM (#10432617)
    isn't this a tremendous waste of money? I'm generally pretty high on national defense, but is our biggest national security threat really that nuclear bombs aren't powerful enough?

    We can not afford a mine shaft gap!
    • by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:08PM (#10432715) Homepage
      > I'm generally pretty high on national defense

      Careful...it's a gateway policy. Before you know it, you'll be mainlining the hard stuff like trade agreements.
    • Probably useless (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:09PM (#10432728)
      It's probably a big waste of money. The efficiencies in creating antimatter are incredibly low. Nuclear power is far cheaper for virtually all applications. From the article:

      With present techniques, the price tag for 100-billionths of a gram of antimatter would be $6 billion

      The only reason I could see it being useful is if you needed an extremely high energy density. "Bullets" with a magnetically suspended speck of antimatter might be handy. They would be virtually undetectable by radar and pack a huge punch. Perhaps the low weights would be useful for space warfare?
    • Re:Really... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:16PM (#10432862) Journal
      Here's the thing.

      We've got the bomb. In fact we've got nuclear submarines so fucking quiet you wouldn't even know their in your harbor just chuck full of the little bastards. However, much like spitting into the wind, using said weapons means we get to glow in the dark as well.

      Anti-matter weapons don't have this spit in face problem. We could drop a anti-matter bomb on Iran and flatten the whole country to within an inch of sea level and nobody is going to be dying of cancer from the nuclear fallout.

      It's like the bomb, only much better.
      • Re:Really... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by carpe_noctem (457178) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:53PM (#10433406) Homepage Journal
        This isn't the thing that's kept us from using nuclear weapons in the past. The thing that has is mutually assured destruction (or MAD, if you will).

        Nuclear weapons were successful in ending the second world war because we were the only country that had them at the time. We couldn't use them in any cold war conflicts because our enemies could use them on us.

        Likewise, the development of anti-matter weapons is useless too, because even if we develop the technology to use them, long-range nuclear weapons from our enemies can still be used against us.

        Creating more powerful weapons in an arms race is kind of like seeing who can count to the biggest number faster... I doubt we'll ever reach a largest number, and eventually both people will shout out "infinity plus one!".
    • Re:Really... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jacer (574383) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:32PM (#10433107) Homepage
      If you can have a weapon more powerful than a nuke, without the fallout, they'll be more prone to use them.
  • by FTL (112112) * <slashdot@n[ ].fraser.name ['eil' in gap]> on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:04PM (#10432628) Homepage
    One of the potential problems with antimatter is how to use it. If one just removes it from its isolation container, it may just glow, spit and fizzle for an extended period of time, rather than explode properly. As the first particles of matter comes in contact with it, that matter (and the corresponding amount of anti-matter) will annihilate, causing a blast that may separate the two objects for a while. So to detonate properly one might need some very fancy geometries or implosion schemes that make an atomic bomb look like child's play.

    Alternatively antimatter may blow up just fine without any assistance. It's all theory just now. We'll have to drop a gram of it to be sure.

    • by imkonen (580619) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:26PM (#10433024)
      You don't need a matched piece of matter to detonate antimatter. Wherever that antimatter goes it will find matter with which to detonate unless you take immense precautions to keep it isolated (which is what much of the article is about). Especially with positrons: What you percieve as mechanical resistance...two solid objects that push against each other rather than just mixing like a gas...is electron-electron repulsion between the atoms on the outsides of those objects. Electrons orbiting an iron atom are just as likely to annihilate with positrons orbiting an anti-iron nucleus, an anti-proton nucleus, or nothing at all.
  • Schweet! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by idontgno (624372) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:04PM (#10432636) Journal
    F-22 Raptors with photon torpedoes on multiple-ejector racks.

    How many megatons yield per aircraft?

    OK, now I'm scared.

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:04PM (#10432640) Homepage Journal
    Shouldn't that be -1 gram of anti matter?
  • by kippy (416183) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:04PM (#10432645)
    This is insane. A gram of antimatter would cost almost more money than exists on earth if I recall. You thought nukes were expensive? wait till you see the military budget if this gets taken seriously.

    I'd love to see their containment schemes so that the anti matter doesn't bump the bomb casing wall and annihilate in storage or in transit.

    On a funny note this nut [antimatterenergy.com] whom I've met in person, claims that comets are made of pure antimatter. Riiiight. That should bring production costs down :)
  • by wowbagger (69688) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:05PM (#10432658) Homepage Journal
    units
    1948 units, 71 prefixes, 28 functions

    You have: grams*c^2
    You want: tonnes-tnt
    * 19487.022
    / 5.1316205e-05

    So 1 gram antimatter + 1 gram matter is about 39 kT of TNT. Hiroshima was about 20 kT, Nagasaki was 13 kT, so one gram antimatter would release just a scosh more than both devices.

    So let us use a bit more sensible units than "shuttle fuel tanks".

    However, the costs of manufacturing the antimatter, and the size of the containment system, and the fail-null mode of antimatter vs. the fail-safe mode of a nuke (a nuke may leak, but it will not detonate without everything going just right), would lead me to wonder about the utility of an antimatter weapon.
  • by halivar (535827) <bfelger&gmail,com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:06PM (#10432665) Homepage
    - Would you have to store the anti-matter, or create it as you need it? The first seems impossible, unless you has some kind of containment where the anti-matter doesn't actually touch anything. The other requires a massive amount of energy. Is this even plausible?

    - What about the radiation involved? We've measured the rays that result from minor, single-atom collisions, but what happens when the collision is actually big enough to damage something?

    - How do you propel something like this? Magnets? Or am I wrong in assuming anti-matter can't touch anything?

    Anyways, maybe some smarter /.'ers than I can tell me where to find this info (it's hard to filter reliable sources out of Google).
    • by Mr. Bad Example (31092) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:10PM (#10432753) Homepage
      > The first seems impossible, unless you has some kind of containment where the anti-matter doesn't actually touch anything.

      Clearly our containment systems must be made of antimatter cats with pieces of antimatter buttered toast strapped to their backs.
    • by Trespass (225077) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:11PM (#10432766) Homepage
      The most common sci-fi containment system is holding the antimatter in a vacuum while suspending it in a powerful magnetic field to keep it from contacting the walls of vessel holding it. I understand something similiar is done with plasma in experimental fusion reactors. It doesn't sound very portable.
    • by egomaniac (105476) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:32PM (#10433108) Homepage
      Would you have to store the anti-matter, or create it as you need it? The first seems impossible, unless you has some kind of containment where the anti-matter doesn't actually touch anything. The other requires a massive amount of energy. Is this even plausible?

      The only mechanisms we know of to create antimatter are UNBELIEVABLY power-hungry. The technology to manufacture even a mere gram of antimatter does not exist. So, the answer to your question -- we really have no idea. We can't manufacture meaningful amounts of antimatter at all, so the question of when it would get manufactured is something of a moot point.

      What about the radiation involved? We've measured the rays that result from minor, single-atom collisions, but what happens when the collision is actually big enough to damage something?

      IANANP (I am not a nuclear physicist), but I don't believe it would be significant. Nuclear weapons have two major sources of residual radiation (fallout): fission byproducts and induced radioactivity caused by neutron bombardment. Antimatter bombs wouldn't produce either. The radiation produced by a matter-antimatter reaction is high-energy gamma rays -- the explosion's extreme energy levels would probably manage to split or fuse a few atoms, and probably create very small amounts of radioactive material, but without fission byproducts or neutron flux you shouldn't see any large-scale radioactivity. The explosion would essentially look and behave just like a nuclear explosion (thermal pulse, mushroom cloud, shock wave, etc.) but without the fallout.

      How do you propel something like this? Magnets? Or am I wrong in assuming anti-matter can't touch anything?

      You are correct -- matter-antimatter collisions are bad news, and you can't allow the antimatter to touch any matter until the desired moment of explosion. Fortunately, antiprotons and antielectrons (positrons) are both electrically charged, and can therefore be magnetically contained in a vacuum to keep them from contacting any matter. A (very simple and dangerous) bomb design might be as simple as a containment shell with antimatter inside. You drop it on the target, the bomb ruptures and releases antimatter, BOOM.

      The real problem is that the failure mode of antimatter weapons (at least ones that relied on pre-manufactured antimatter) is so damned dangerous. If the circuitry in a nuclear weapon fails, no biggie -- the bomb just doesn't detonate. Even in the worst case all that happens with a nuke is leakage of radioactive material. In fact, even an accidental critical mass isn't enough to produce a large-scale explosion -- unless you contain everything just right it just doesn't give you a big blast.

      With an antimatter bomb, the opposite is true. You have to contain everything just right, because the second you don't, BOOM.
    • by WillWare (11935) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:41PM (#10433231) Homepage Journal
      ...seems impossible, unless you has some kind of containment where the anti-matter doesn't actually touch anything.

      Don't worry, we've got it covered. You ever see one of those aerodynamic trick gadgets where a balloon is suspended in an updraft from a fan? You push the balloon to one side, it recenters itself over the fan.

      Now take out the balloon and put in a blob of antimatter. If the antimatter is too heavy to float in the breeze, duct-tape the antimatter to the balloon.

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:06PM (#10432675)

    The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the Air Force is actively pursuing antimatter weapons. Such weapons would easy eclipse nuclear weapons in power, e.g., 1 gram of antimatter would equal 23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy.

    Are we sure they're pursuing weapons? We are talking about the Air Force, and it's funny how they'd compare the relative energy to a spaceship fuel tank, of all things...

    • Ding! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikeee (137160) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:44PM (#10433283)
      I think you've got it. Consider that space shuttle.

      It's something like 95% fuel by weight on takeoff. Now, if your engines are burning antimatter, you can replace all that weight with payload and still reach orbit!

      If the antimatter could be manufactured for a reasonable multiple of the energy cost, it would cause the cost of getting stuff into space to drop dramatically.
  • by sczimme (603413) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:07PM (#10432687)

    1 gram of antimatter would equal 23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy.

    I thought the standard unit of explosive power was the ton of dynamite...

    Perhaps more interesting, after an initial inquiry by the Chronicle in the summer, the Air Force issued a gag order that prohibits any Air Force employee from discussing antimatter research or funding

    This isn't really that interesting or even unusual: Uncle Sam frequently limits what military folks can say about ongoing projects. There is a classification called "Sensitive But Unclassified", or SBU, whcih means the info is not classified as such (Secret, TS, etc.) but it is still not for public disclosure. (Years ago SBU was called "For Official Use Only" or FOUO.) Budgets are generally considered at least SBU, so it should be no suprise that the budget is not publicized.

    /spent six years in the Air Force
    • by halivar (535827) <bfelger&gmail,com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:18PM (#10432902) Homepage
      This isn't really that interesting or even unusual: Uncle Sam frequently limits what military folks can say about ongoing projects. There is a classification called "Sensitive But Unclassified", or SBU, whcih means the info is not classified as such (Secret, TS, etc.) but it is still not for public disclosure. (Years ago SBU was called "For Official Use Only" or FOUO.) Budgets are generally considered at least SBU, so it should be no suprise that the budget is not publicized.

      Well, since they just telling employees not to talk about it, the proper designation is Sensitive Topic For the Uninitiated, or STFU.
  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:07PM (#10432694) Homepage
    During a panel at LACon II in '84, Dr. Forward mentioned that calculations showed that an anti-matter bowling ball wouldn't go up in a blaze of light and gamma, it'd sit on the floor sizzling like a drop of water on a griddle for several minutes. From what I gathered, the matter and anti-matter only interact as they come into contact with each other, and even in a normal Earth atmosphere there's a limit as to how many particles touch at any given time. Also, of course, the reaction heats the air up, causing convection currents that lower the pressure. Thinking about it, I guess you'd get the fastest reaction with an anti-dust so that there's as much surface as possible.
    • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@nospAm.deforest.org> on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:04PM (#10433565)
      Hmmm... "sit on the floor sizzling like a drop of water on a griddle" conjures up positively, er, gentle images.


      But you have to think about what's doing the holding up. In this case, it wouldn't be steam, it would be radiation pressure keeping the atmosphere from rushing in and annihilating. The actual momentum carried by gamma ray photons from the annihilation would deflect air molecules out of the way to prevent a rapid inrush.


      You can calculate how much power that is per square centimeter of "exposed" antimatter.
      Each photon carries a certain amount of momentum, momentum per unit time is force. So to sustain a certain pressure a certain number of photons have to be absorbed by the air per square centimeter.


      The momentum carried by a photon is just E/c, where E is its energy and c is the speed of light. So to hold out 15 psi (10 Newtons per cm^2), you have to transmit 10^9 Newton-meters/second of power through that square centimeter.


      So a golf ball of antimatter, sitting in the atmosphere, would emit about 4*pi*10^9 Watts, or about 10^10 Watts. The surface of the golf ball would be 10^11 times brighter than the surface of the Sun -- though of course most of that radiation would be in the form of gamma rays.


      If the golf ball massed about 5 grams, it would
      release 5x10^15 Joules in total, so it would indeed last a long time -- but you wouldn't want to classify it as a gentle sizzle...


      You could do much better by applying more pressure to the golf ball. Putting it in the imploding shock wave of a thermonuclear bomb trigger could increase the output by something like eight orders of magnitude if you got lucky enough (it scales linearly with pressure).

  • by Naikrovek (667) <jjohnson@nospam.psg.com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:10PM (#10432751)
    this should be "from the stuff-that-antimatters dept."
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:11PM (#10432767) Homepage Journal
    Unlike regular nuclear bombs, positron bombs wouldn't eject plumes of radioactive debris. When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma radiation. Thus, in principle, a positron bomb could be a step toward one of the military's dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called "clean" superbomb that could kill large numbers of soldiers without ejecting radioactive contaminants over the countryside.

    As depressing as it sounds, this is probably a Good Thing.

    If we take as fact that militaries exist to kill, then it follows logically that they will develop tools to kill as effectively as possible. That's how we've ended up with uranium fission bombs, then plutonium fission bombs, then hydrogen fusion bombs.

    Someone, somewhere, will eventually decide that they need to neutralize their enemy bad enough to accept the consequences of a nuke. It may even be us -- if Bush hadn't restarted research on nuclear bunker-busters, someone else would have eventually.

    So if you accept the depressing notion that use of massively destructive weapons is inevitable, you *want* this research to go forward. At least, this way, you *can* go back home.

    Kind of ironic... for all the talk about "WMD"s, this would be a real Weapon of *Mass* Destruction... or at least, a Weapon of Mass Conversion Directly To Energy.
    • by Greyfox (87712) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:39PM (#10433220) Homepage Journal
      They say soldiers, but hasn't the only use of nuclear weapons in a wartime scenario been against civilians? Oh and our own guys in testing, of course. I was not under the impression that nuclear weapons have ever been used against anyone else's army. And during the cold war, I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of the targets on either side were not military.

      So lets not decieve each other about who such a weapon will be used on, nor its ultimate purpose. Such a bomb would be a weapon designed to kill off the civilian population of a country while leaving their oil fields standing. OK, maybe I'm a little cynical, but I grew up during the height of the cold war at what would have been ground 0 had there been a war. I think I've earned the right to be a bit cynical.

      It's been a while, but I believe I heard about several treaties back in the day banning the research on the "Neutron Bomb." No one particularly liked the idea of a clean weapon that could kill off a large population. All you'd have to do is bomb a region, send some guys in to clear the bodies out and then start moving your own people in. I wouldn't trust the most saintly of governments with a power like that, much less my own.

      I would not, however, object to a particle/beam weapon that could cut an enemy tank or missile up like a big piece of cheese.

  • by dchamp (89216) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:12PM (#10432778)
    Dear US Air Force. Please don't blow up the planet.

    Thank You,

    A Concerned Citizen

    Interviewer : Do you have the power to destroy the Earth?
    The Tick : Egads! I hope not. That's where I keep all my stuff!
  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:13PM (#10432799) Homepage Journal
    I'd be shocked if this research hasn't been going on since the early days of the Cold War.

    Like any technology, antimatter can be used for good or evil. Ever get a PET scan [unimelb.edu.au]? That's antimatter right in the middle of your body. Don't worry, you won't grow a third leg or anything from it.

    I'm sure the DoD is aware of this, but gamma-ray bursts can cause nuclear changes, which can create radioactive particles that linger. It's not nearly the problem of traditional fallout, and is even be "negligible" for a sufficiently large value of "negligible." Much more likely is ionization which can kill living tissue and cause chemical changes to non-living materials. This can cause buildings to become less structurally sound, for example. However, absent the "negligible" secondary radiation I mentioned above, a conquering army can roll in without wearing radiation suits.
  • by abcho (320284) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:13PM (#10432804) Homepage

    For a balanced view, it is important to realize that anti-matter physics have yielded substantial medical and non-military benefits already. Many people probably already encountered various applications of this technology without realizing it.

    For example, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a very useful clinical and medical research tool for brain and cardiac functional imaging. See: Positron Emission Tomography [triumf.ca]

  • Pointless. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jaywalk (94910) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:15PM (#10432838) Homepage
    Exactly what military threat do they envision where they need a bigger "boom" than what they have now? Every current military threat isn't a matter of having insufficient explosive power, but having difficulty ascertaining the target. This stuff may have practical use as a non-military explosive (e.g., asteroid deflection) but the U.S. military already has the necessary force to blow up anything on earth using existing technology.
    • by Gulik (179693) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:38PM (#10433198)
      Exactly what military threat do they envision where they need a bigger "boom" than what they have now?

      Actually, as others have posted, it seems to be more that it's a different kind of boom -- one which doesn't throw lots of radioactive contaminants into the atmosphere, for one. It just, you know, kills everybody nearby with X-rays (I believe).

      I can't help but assume that half the impetus behind this research are the Trek geeks in the Air Force wanting to be the first one to say "We've got an antimatter containment breach." They know they'll be dead shortly afterwards, but they're okay with that. Kind of like the geek equivalent of dying for the glory of God.
  • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:16PM (#10432853) Journal
    Don't panic/celebrate in anticipation of antimatter weapons being deployed 15 years from now.

    From the article:
    "about 50-millionths of a gram could generate a blast equal to the explosion (roughly 4,000 pounds of TNT, according to the FBI) at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995."

    and

    "With present techniques, the price tag for 100-billionths of a gram of antimatter would be $6 billion"

    from which we can calculate that blowing up a building with antimatter will cost about 3 trillion dollars. (And tens or hundreds of millions for the equipment to confine the antimatter until you want it to detonate, but that is negligible in comparison.)

    Also notice that while the antimatter may be the ultimately compact explosive, the containment equipment required will increase the size of a warhead by many orders of magnitude. No antimatter rifle bullets anytime soon.
  • by neuro.slug (628600) <<neuro__> <at> <hotmail.com>> on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:17PM (#10432876)
    So what I've done is taken this .."anti-matter" and mounted it in a giant conical cannon. I shall call it.. The "Anti-Matter Horn".

    Mwa ha ha ha!
  • Orion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Scott Laird (2043) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:20PM (#10432935) Homepage

    I think everyone's spinning it wrong. The most useful thing you can do with lots of positrons would be to build an antimater-catalyzed nuclear pulse propulsion [wikipedia.org] engine. With a good source for lots of positrons, you should be able to build nukes small enough to be useful.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:21PM (#10432939) Homepage
    Okay I'm just as confused as the next person about that unit of measure. But I am sure there are real much smarter people here that could enlighten us.

    Could someone convert that into units of "can of whoop-ass?"
  • Other uses... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hamster Of Death (413544) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:21PM (#10432944)
    I know next to nothing about this, but I'll toss this out there anyway.
    How efficiently is this stuff converted to energy once it contacts matter? Could it be used to say generate electricity (or whatever, heat/light etc..)?
    It would make a great way to clean up current nuclear waste if you could get the costs of production down. Just dump some antimatter on some nuclear waste (in a controlled manner of course), and voila, energy AND less waste .

    Just a thought...
  • by museumpeace (735109) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:22PM (#10432966) Journal
    .yaw ralucatceps yllear a ni lla ti dne ot detnaw ew sselnu retemirep tnemenifnoc eht evael reven dna pu tuhs ot su dlot yehT !bal eht ta ereh tnempiuqe retupmoc ruo htiw elbuort fo stros lla gnivah erew ew deciton neht tub gninnur retrevnoc rettamitan eht tog eW
  • by Strange_Attractor (160407) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:28PM (#10433050) Homepage
    The end of the article:

    Besides, Lynn is enthusiastic about antimatter because he believes it could propel futuristic space rockets. "I think," he said, "we need to get off this planet, because I'm afraid we're going to destroy it."
    Maybe if we lay off building the antimatter bombs...
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:36PM (#10433155) Homepage Journal
    Antimatter research is extremely valuable science. Insight into the mechanisms of anti/matter annihilation, and its total (or nearly) conversion to energy, will inform science from nuclear energy to nano (femto?) tech and beyond. It's best performed in space, away from the rest of the world which it can contaminate with either annihilable (anti)material or radiation from the reaction. But budgeting the Air Force to make bombs out of it is insane. We've already got expensive ginormous bombs that scare everyone silly, and send the craziest of us into terrorism to compete. How about we just shift that Pentagon budget across to NASA? That will satisfy the aerospace bribers^Wlobbyists who are pushing this stuff, but keep them serving a sustainable market.
  • by kc_cyrus (759211) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:31PM (#10433870)
    Actually, antimatter does not make good bombs. Even more ordinary nuclear bombs can "fizzle" unless carefully designed: the reaction gets going but too slowly, so the bomb blows itself apart before the reaction can proceed very far.

    With antimatter this problem is far worse, because while fission and fusion occur throughout the reaction volume, the matter-antimatter reaction occurs only on a contact surface.

    It's exceedingly difficult to get a major explosion with antimatter.(Tiny ones are not hard, since the square-cube law gives you more surface area per volume as the scale shrinks.)

    Also, with production technology we can reasonably foresee, antimatter is impossibly expensive for weapons applications.
    Even the US military has finite budgets. The cost of burning a city down with conventional weapons is large but not infinite. We won't get the price down below US$ 60.e6/mg using foreseeable Earth-based technologies and, at 43 kT/gm of antimatter, we're talking roughly US$ 1.4e9 per kiloton !!!!!!!!! Even the Pentagon's budget isn't THAT large...

  • by Tom7 (102298) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:40PM (#10433974) Homepage Journal
    Such weapons would easy eclipse nuclear weapons in power

    Thank goodness. One of the biggest problems with nuclear weapons is their lack of power.

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