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Air Force Researching Antimatter Weapons 1062

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 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 [] whom I've met in person, claims that comets are made of pure antimatter. Riiiight. That should bring production costs down :)
  • by JeanBaptiste ( 537955 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:05PM (#10432650)
    Good question. I'm curious if these will be radioactive like nukes. If you got the 'bang' without having the radioactivity, wouldn't that be _less_ scary than a nuke? I'm obviously not a quantum physicist, and I dont even play one on /.
    Perhaps one of you big-brained types could enlighten me? Thanks.
  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger@gm a i l . c om> on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:06PM (#10432665)
    - 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 Skye16 ( 685048 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:08PM (#10432706)
    That kind of depends on what scares you more... a higher propensity to use these weapons due to low radiation or a great fear of using these weapons due to high radiation.

    I'm scared shitless either way.
  • 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?
  • 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 []? 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 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."


    "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 bigtangringo ( 800328 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:16PM (#10432861) Homepage
    Time to print out a template from [] Thank you Mr. Greenewald.
  • 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 [] engine. With a good source for lots of positrons, you should be able to build nukes small enough to be useful.

  • 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 Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:23PM (#10432982)
    Aircraft/spacecraft propulsion seem to be the only application for antimatter that makes any sense.

    The energy/mass ratio makes antimatter a good source of energy to use to overcome gravity.

    As for weaponry, mass is a factor, but not the most important one. Making anti-matter is hard. Making stuff explode is relatively easy.
  • Anti-Matter (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Station ( 621731 ) <marose&vt,edu> on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:24PM (#10432991) Homepage
    First, yes, anti-matter can't touch anything at all, otherwise boom. Best way to contain it would be magnetic bottles in vacuumed areas.

    Second, using it as a weapon. There would not be radiation, just lots of light, because it isn't radioactive in any real sense. It doesn't leave any trace at all, just a large flash of light and then a hole where there used to be normal matter. You can't even detect anti-matter in its normal state since it doesn't emit anything. It would be like trying to detect hydrogen (easiest antimatter to make for obvious reasons).

    Now, the potential for a weapon is absolute. People will worry about that, since its so easy to make as long as you have antimatter. Just make the containment field turn off as soon as it hits. Its an understandably dangerous idea, but we have to realize that its this way with any power source. First, you learn to use it without control. Then you learn to control it to fuel a power source. Take fission. First the bomb. Later, nuke plants. Now fusion. We have hydrogen bombs, we are trying to make (controlled) fusion plants now. So first we use it as a weapon, then we learn how to control it (to make the Enterprise).

    Now, as a weapon, I can't imagine its the worst thing in the world. Only large, (presumably) responsible countries could make it. We have somthing close to its destructive power now with the H bomb, but this one would have no radiation afterward causing untold pain and suffereing from fallout. Just the initial flash. And we haven't used the H bomb yet, god-willing we will never use this. If the war ever comes and Mars attacks though, I would love to have something other than the common cold to fall back on.

  • 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 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.
  • by sexylicious ( 679192 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:33PM (#10433128)
    It's a bit more than -1 + 1 = 0. In terms of net charge, you're correct. If you start with a particle and an anti-particle and get them to collide, you'll have no net charge left over.

    Now, there's that other part of matter called mass. There's the rest mass of a particle (the particle has NO kinetic energy). And there's the mass associated with velocity (E=mc^2 comes from this... Kinetec Energy = 1/2 * m * v^2).

    All the stuff that makes up the particles mass has an equivalent energy via E=mc^2. When you bring a particle and an anti-particle close enough that they react with each other, then the net charge of the two becomes neutral and the mass becomes so great that the new mass wants to find a more stable state. In order for the new mass to find a more stable state, it has to decay. (Now, the mass doesn't "know" or "think" about this, there are physical limits to the amount of mass that you can put into one particle.)

    Since the super-particle isn't stable, it breaks up into smaller particles. It just so happens that when you bring an electron and a positron (anti-electron) just close enough that they barely touch with no excess kinetic energy beyond what is needed to make them react, then you'll get a super-particle that instantly decays into two high energy photons (gamma rays).
  • by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:35PM (#10433140) Homepage
    Rather than equate it to Nuclear Bombs, space shuttle tanks, etc. how about how long a gram of anti-matter could run a laptop?

    I would expect that it's on the order of centuries which would make it very desireable, although having a potentially leaking anti-matter device on one's lap would make it very undesireable.

  • by eyegone ( 644831 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:36PM (#10433160)

    ...and if you drop a ball of plutonium on your foot, all you get is broken toes.

    I'm pretty sure that if the radiation exposure isn't enough to kill you, the chemical toxicity of Plutonium would be.
  • by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:38PM (#10433201)
    Hence the question of 5.56mm vs. 7.62mm, etc.
    Urban legend. The downward trend in military rifle cartidge power ( .30-06 to 7.62NATO to 5.56NATO ) has nothing (or very little) to do with the propensity to kill or wound.

    During WWII we found that the standard-issue rifle round (.30-06 at the time) was a lot more powerful than it needed to be. Going into the war, they expected infantrymen to be able to conduct aimed fire out to 600 - 1000 yards, so they adopted a rifle (M-1) and cartidge which was effective at these ranges. However, once they actually looked at real-world performance they found that soldiers were doing very little aimed fire and that most targets more than 250 yards away were engaged with heavy weapons.

    In keeping with these findings, they redesigned the primary infantry weapon to have a less powerful cartridge that had full-auto capability to provide suppressive fire vs aimed fire. A smaller cartridge means that an infantryman can carry more rounds for the same weight. This gave us the M-14. The problem with the M-14 was that it was still too powerful for an average soldier to fire it on full auto. So, they went to an even lighter rifle & cartidge and got the M-16.

  • Less radioactive. Alot of what you see in a fission bomb is the "unburnt" materials being dispersed by the explosion, the fallout. This just won't exist with anti-hydrogen (I'm assuming this is the most synthesizable element). However, even with fission, not all of it exists beforehand, when you have neutrons flying fuckfast all over the place, some stick in a nucleus here and there producing what are usually small halflife radioactive elements. A m/am would produce lots of all different sorts of radiation and fast particles... there is sure to be something created that lasts longer than a split second. And of course, immediately after the explosion, everything far enough away to avoid being vaporized will be dosed heavily.

    It might very well be more scary, and not just from a power perspective... assume something as big as a nuke, but as (nearly) clean as a conventional explosive. The temptation to use it might be greater, the inhibitions even less.

    BTW, anyone want to speculate on H/anti-H bombs? No neutrons to shoot all over the place, but at least a few protons (I'm assuming less than 100% perfect mix). And what happens when an anti-H atom hits oxygen or nitrogen, how does that work exactly?
  • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:50PM (#10433362) Journal
    So generating antimatter directly using current methods would be extremely expensive. More importantly, given how much energy it "contains" (via matter-antimatter annihilation), and assuming you need even MORE energy to generate it, the energy requirements would be prohibitive at best and simply unavailable at worst.

    But what about harvesting antimatter? Isn't it present in cosmic rays and radiation? A large electromagnetic bubble could be used to filter out antiprotons and slow it down until it is united with positrons in a trap and stored. Since you're working in a hard vacuum, containment is less of an issue and your fields and machinery do not need to be sealed tight. It's just a variation of a bussard ramscoop. Of course it would have to be very large.

    Generating antimatter requires massive amounts of energy. So why not go to the most naturally energetic object around - the Sun? Either make a factory designed to operate in close proximity to the sun and use the energy to make antimatter directly, or attempt to capture the naturally generated antimatter from the sun [] in some fashion. I am not an expert, but I presume at least some of the solar wind and certainly some of the solar atmosphere is composed of antimatter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:53PM (#10433410)
    Okay, I know this is going to be a troll but what the hell...

    How is obliterating a country with two or three of these babies any different that obliterating a country with tens of thousand of 500 lb bombs like we did to Germany in WWII? The net effect is the same. The only really scary thing about nukes was the effects of radiation.

    We've forgotten what war is supposed to be. It's supposed to be brutal, ugly, horrible, and something we don't want to do on a regular basis. But war is also supposed to be a process by which we destroy stuff and kill people.
  • Plutonium (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @04:56PM (#10433462) Homepage Journal
    Actually, you can hold a chunk of plutonium in your hand with little side effect.

    When the plutonium core of the Trinity device was delivered to the site, the commander insisted that the courier open the case containing it - he said something along the lines of "I won't sign for anything unless I have actually seen it".

    So, the courier opened the case, the BC took the sphere out, held it briefly (noting the warmth and "feeling of potential"), then returned it and signed for it.

    Go read "The Day The Sun Rose Twice" for the details.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:02PM (#10433541) Homepage Journal
    I failed to realize that. I thought they simply anihilated each other- basically "radiating" only lower energy particles past the initial fireball, a burst of energy and then nothing (no LASTING radiation). But you make a good point- and if there's *any* supra-uranium metals nearby, the gamma ray could trigger fission.
  • by Dr. Zowie ( 109983 ) <slashdot@ d e f o r e s t .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 NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:04PM (#10433569)

    If you think that 3 million deaths over 60 years makes the US government the worst in history, you should go back to the history books.

    In African history, there were plenty of times when 3 million over 60 years would pale in comparison. Then, look into the colonial period of England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium. Between the numbers of natives murdered, worked to death, killed by disease, and the slaves brought in to replace them, 3 million over 60 years wouldn't look so bad at all. In fact, one particularly dark period of Belgian rule in the Congo brought about 10 million deaths over 40 years.

    Germany, of course, slaughtered far more than 3 million (perhaps as high as 11 million) during WW2. The Russian gulag system would rival the 3 million mark, and that was perpetrated against it's own citizens.

    I'm not in any way taking any side on any part - American or otherwise. I'm just saying that your statement of the US government being the worst in the history of the world would take an awfully skewed, narrow viewpoint to accept.

  • by Joseph Vigneau ( 514 ) * on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:15PM (#10433720)
    if you drop a ball of plutonium on your foot, all you get is broken toes.

    This guy [] became the "first peacetime atom bomb" fatality by dropping a brick on a ball of plutonium.

  • Re:Energy Conversion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by barawn ( 25691 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:17PM (#10433735) Homepage
    (at the expense of matter in the universe, of course)

    And several conservation laws of physics, as well. :)

    That being said, antimatter may just be a battery, but it is the best possible batter known to very, very basic physics (i.e. it's very unlikely to find a better one). Antimatter would be a very viable fuel for a lightweight probe to other star systems. A few have been proposed - I don't think anyone's taken them seriously, though. (AimSTAR is the one I knew of from a professor at Penn State, though it was definitely a pipe dream.)
  • Re:Energy Conversion (Score:2, Interesting)

    by StarsAreAlsoFire ( 738726 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:20PM (#10433766)
    Guessing, but I imagine the difference you are seeing is the fact that E=mc^2 isn't a 'real world' way to measure the conversion of mass to energy via matter-antimatter interaction.

    Like anything else, there are inefficiencies which occure (e.g. energy is taken up by re-forming certain elements/compounds etc).

    If I recall correctly the absolute most efficient energy conversion process is achieved by a black hole (ask me not the process by which this is done), with a conversion of mass to energy of something like 40% efficiency.

    Matter-antimatter isn't anywhere near that.

    Again, this is just a heads up :~) check the numbers at your leisure.
  • by Charvak ( 97898 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:23PM (#10433798)
    Here is the math..
    E = 2mc^2
    E = h*frequency
    Frequency of the photon = 2 m*c*c/h
    where m = mass of electron c = speed of light
    h = planck constant
    Now according to google
    m = 9.109*10^-31 c= 3*10^8 h = 6.63 *10-34
    frequency comes out to be 2.47*10^20 hertz
    which comes under gamma rays.
    So indeed the positron+electron will produce gamma rays
  • Re:Plutonium (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Diamoddavej ( 819072 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:38PM (#10433951)
    Tell that to Harry Daghlin. During a partial criticality test just after the war, a core slipped during a test and went full critical. Harry had to knock one of the two plutonium hemispheres apart by hand. He saw a blue flash, Harry was that quick but it was not quick enough. He died 25 days later.

    Harry's right hand []
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:39PM (#10433961)
    they redesigned the primary infantry weapon to have a less powerful cartridge that had full-auto capability to provide suppressive fire vs aimed fire. A smaller cartridge means that an infantryman can carry more rounds for the same weight. This gave us the M-14.

    Sorry, Big Wrong here. The M14 fires the .308 (7.62 x 51mm) cartridge, which provides virtually identical ballistics to the .30-06 (7.62 x 61mm) round in the M-1. All the .308 proved was that you could put a .30-06 into a case about a half inch shorter.

    It was from that mis-step that we went to the 5.56 (.223) cartridge in the M-16 that wasn't even initially intended for the U.S. Army. We were giving AR-15 (civilian model of the M16) to our more slightly statured (shorter & lighter) South Vietmese allies when some one realized that a heavy rifle with heavy ammunition that nobody could control on full-auto fire didn't make nearly as much sense in the jungle where visibility was often 15 yards or less, as did this toy rifle we were giving to everyone else.

    As a result, the M16 and its derivations have now served for as long as any other service rifle in the U.S. Military.

    And btw, it was the Germans back in 1941-1942 who realized that it didn't make sense for their soliders to carry 1000 metre rifles when most battles were fought at under 400 metres. A smaller, lighter, cheaper rifle with ammunition only effective out to 400 metres that allowed selective fire as well made the individual foot solider a much more effective fighter. Too bad that the USA had to learn that lesson TWICE!! (M14, before M16.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:44PM (#10434000)
    It had to have been, Jesus, the late Eighties when one of the boys at the Huge Aircrash Malibu research center came by our plantsite to give a lunchtime talk about anti-matter and spaceflight. DARPA had funded him to write a paper on the nuts and bolts of getting enough anti-matter in one place to fuel a deep space mission.

    At the time - and I suppose now - about the only source of anti-matter were nuclear accelerators. The speaker stepped through some concept drawings for filtering, capturing, and storing the good stuff, and how to play with it once enough had been collected to be worthwhile.

    What stands out in my memory was the number of times he paused to comment "this would make a good post-grad/post-doc project". So, unless the AF has one hell of an accelerator stashed away that's somehow optimized for anti-particle creation, any practical work will have been in conjunction with the few existing big accelerators. Do some thesis doc searches with references to Fermilab, Livermore, and magnetic
    bottles, and you'd have a start.

    Something for the tinfoil hat people to keep in mind is that as it stands now, it takes a LOT of energy to produce enough anti-particles that would so much as sterilize a carton of milk, nevermind launch us to Pluto or send China on a Flying Leap Backward.

  • by grumpygrodyguy ( 603716 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:45PM (#10434012)
    This guy became the "first peacetime atom bomb" fatality by dropping a brick on a ball of plutonium.

    There was a film called "Fat Man and Little Boy" [] which included this very incident.

    The guy who died of overexposure was played by John Cusack.
  • Re:Plutonium (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Clothist ( 815659 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @05:57PM (#10434114)
    That's a different situation altogether, though. It doesn't matter HOW stable it is in normal situations, you still don't want to be anywhere near a criticality event!
  • by benzapp ( 464105 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:24PM (#10434332)
    3 million tutsis were slaughtered in a mere three months with nothing more than machetes.

    3 million people die every single day for no reason what so ever.

    Who gives a fuck about 3 million people? There are 6 billion on this planet, and thats looking to double every 25 years. What is the bigger problem here? 3 million deaths? Or 100 billion new lives?

    I so tired of the ridiculous value judgement that death = bad, life = good.

    We are on the verge of destroying the world. Its not because of some vast conspiracy. Its because everyone on this planet wants to keep fucking and having lots of children. Maybe if 10 million died every day, we could prevent this planet from turning into one gigantic apartment complex.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:32PM (#10434391)
    The tip of an ARC welding rod exceeds the surface temp of the sun and people get exposed to that every day.
  • Re:Plutonium (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CritterNYC ( 190163 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:32PM (#10434393) Homepage
    Tell that to Harry Daghlin. During a partial criticality test just after the war, a core slipped during a test and went full critical. Harry had to knock one of the two plutonium hemispheres apart by hand. He saw a blue flash, Harry was that quick but it was not quick enough. He died 25 days later.

    Actually, it is Harry Dahlian [] for those who want to learn more about it.
  • Re:Plutonium (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fozzy1015 ( 264592 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @06:50PM (#10434569)
    Plutonium gives off alpha radiation. It doesn't penetrate skin but if you inhale or ingest a very tiny amount it will kill you. In the lungs it will cause massive fibrosis. In the blood stream it follows the same pathway as calcium and will destroy bone marrow.

  • agree (Score:3, Interesting)

    by js7a ( 579872 ) <james AT bovik DOT org> on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:00PM (#10435563) Homepage Journal
    I agree; containing antimatter is much trickier than most people think. If they all have the same charge, anything aproaching microgram quantities reaches enough internal pressure to make electrostatic confinement impossible. And there's no perfect vaccume, etc. Even if we could afford to make a microgram, I doubt we could store it for effective weapon delivery.

    I'm not sure I'm opposed to basic research into antimatter, though. I just wish that it didn't have to be classified six ways 'till Sunday.

    I have a feeling that this will serve to keep interested physicists destracted from much simpler uranium enrichment.

  • Re:Plutonium (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:29PM (#10435754) Journal
    Actually, you can hold a chunk of plutonium in your hand with little side effect.
    When the plutonium core of the Trinity device was delivered to the site, the commander insisted that the courier open the case containing it - he said something along the lines of "I won't sign for anything unless I have actually seen it".
    So, the courier opened the case, the BC took the sphere out, held it briefly (noting the warmth and "feeling of potential"), then returned it and signed for it.
    The US Navy has developped a diving suit that is heated by plutonium decay.
    It is not very popular amongst divers...
  • by PSUspud ( 7236 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:31PM (#10435771) Homepage
    I am a physicist, and I was in the Penn State physics department with the physics guy in charge of this project, Gerald Smith. I didn't work with him, but scuttlebutt gets around, and the scuttlebutt wasn't good, either about him or about the project.

    First: yes, as the article states, Gerald Smith was the department chair. However, he didn't stay there very long because he was a jerk.

    Second: I'm much more likely to get hit by a falling safe than an anti-matter bomb. This shit is almost impossible to hold. They've been trying for years just to get enough of it so they can make an anti-hydrogen atom stable enough to see if it accelerates like a hydrogen atom under the influence of gravity. If they can't get 1, how are they going to 10^14 (i.e., 1 billionth of a gram)? And even if they make it, how are they going to store it, move it, use it? Hell, just the cryogenics alone make it non-storable. (Yes, this stuff has to stay cool, or the incredibly difficult job of storing it becomes impossible.) Oh, and if somebody says "positronium" instead of "anti-hydrogen", I say, "even harder". After all, anti-hydrogen has been made (if only incredibly briefly).

    The original inspiration for making and storing anti-hydrogen was space travel, where the value would make up for the pain. Making another boom just doesn't cut it. What we have here is a scientist in need of funding, together with a bunch of schmucks without any common sense.

    Steve Beach, MS in particle astrophysics, 2003.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:16PM (#10436002)

    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.)
    I'm not sure where this idea comes from, but it's been referred to in several other posts.

    You seem to be making the assumption that the anti-matter will be in the form a singular solid mass. Why? I would think that a fluid of some sort would be more likely (gas, liquid, plasma, cloud of positrons.) It seems very unlikely that you would have a solid spherical mass of anti-Carbon with minimal surface area (for instance.)


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