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Earth NASA Space Science

Anti-Matter Belt Discovered Around Earth 208

hydrofix writes "A thin band of antiprotons enveloping the Earth has been spotted for the first time. The find, described in Astrophysical Journal Letters [arXiv] (Note: abstract free, full text paywalled), confirms theoretical work that predicted the Earth's magnetic field could trap antimatter. The antiprotons were spotted by the Pamela satellite launched in 2006 to study the nature of high-energy particles from the Sun and cosmic rays. Aside from confirming theoretical work that had long predicted the existence of these antimatter bands, the particles could also prove to be a novel fuel source for future spacecraft — an idea explored in a report for NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts."
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Anti-Matter Belt Discovered Around Earth

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  • antimatter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @01:50PM (#37015460)

    the particles could also prove to be a novel fuel source for future spacecraft

    That's sooooo adorably naive! Everybody knows that if it turns out to be a useful power source, the governments of the world will compete with one another to turn it into a weapon. Space Race 2.0: Fuck The Manhattan Project, Shit Just Got Real!

  • Re:antimatter (Score:0, Insightful)

    by DakotaSmith ( 937647 ) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @03:26PM (#37016224) Homepage

    They didn't find antimatter, they found anti-protons. Matter is what happens when particles arrange themselves a certain way. A few stray protons doesn't constitute matter: neither do some stray anti-protons.

    Furthermore, they've found a whopping 28 of them in two years' research. Even if they'd found 28 atoms of anti-hydrogen (which would require that each anti-proton also have a positron), the amount is utterly irrelevant in terms of power generation. 28 atoms of anti-hydrogen (which I point out again that this is not) wouldn't produce a reaction capable of running a AA-battery flashlight.

    I believe that the BBC has fallen victim to sensationalism and/or ignorance. It's pretty much what I've come to expect from the world press.

  • Re:antimatter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Philbert de Zwart ( 1440831 ) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @04:51PM (#37016820)

    Well, I will agree with you that atomic bombs require an enormous investment, but your reasoning fails on one account: in an atomic bomb, the potential energy is already there, provided by nature. Sure we had to refine it, but in the end it is supernovas that put all that energy in the Uranium (or what have you) for us. To create an antimatter bomb, we need to produce all that potential energy ourselves, in the form of antimatter. Not only do we need to put in the potential energy itself, but also excess energy to account for the inefficiency of the production process.

    That is what makes antimatter too inefficient to be used as a weapon, let alone as a fuel source.

    This changes if we could harvest it from space, as indeed it would be nature again who has stored that potential energy for us.

  • Re:antimatter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Sunday August 07, 2011 @05:09PM (#37016954)

    I remember an excellent interview a long time ago by a researcher in antimatter who was asked about weapons. His reply was 2 fold insightful:

    1) Who cares, we already have tactical nukes which can fit into a brief case, how much smaller do we really need to get?

    2) It's very very difficult to mix anti-matter instantaneously with a large quantity of matter. You would most likely just get a sustained very hot burn not an explosion. It's the old Fuel/Air conundrum. Per gram gasoline has more explosive power than gun powder. But you have to mix it to get it to react.

  • Re:antimatter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday August 08, 2011 @04:02AM (#37019860)

    >and at least casual passers-by see both sides of any issue.

    I can't think of anything more truly naive than to imagine that any issue has only two sides. Humans, especially politicians, like to think and act as if they did - but the real world never works that way. This makes the whole "both sides" tactic a wonderful form of mass-manipulation.

    By ignoring all shades of gray you can take somebody from a reasonable position and rapidly get them to agree to a highly unreasonable proposition by painting it as being on the same side of the line - but the real world doesn't have lines. It has a huge gray area that slowly shades from "where you were comfortable with" through "less and less okay" to "not okay at all".

    You start out believing people should be allowed to write and read any newspaper they like, and end up supporting the right to put the recipe for nerf gas on a billboard. You start out believing a government should be beholden to it's people, and those people empowered to replace that government - and end up supporting the idea that a convicted fellon should be able to buy assault rifles with armor piercing bullets and finger-print resistant grips.

    In reality - none of us are truly on the extremes - but we end up voting for them because we've been convinced that there is a black/white line and if we don't support one extreme we support the other.
    Generally though - if we truly probe our thoughts we discover that we are never really in support of the extremes. Even Timothy McVeigh thought that the right to bear arms shouldn't include nuclear weapons. Yep - a man who killed people and planted a bomb because he believed so strongly that people should be allowed to have ANY weapons, could see a kind of weapon he thought ought to be restricted.

    You can really draw the same principle through almost every debate in politics today. Instead of "two sides" - look at it as two extremes with a huge gray area in the middle, and then say that each specific example in that gray area should be studied on merit and those that aren't two extreme on either side should probably be okay.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.