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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Anti-matter by Frank Close - Review

After reading his book "Void", I was tempted to know how he would fit "Anti-matter" to it. And it turned out to be a sequel (or rather answer) to the non-fiction writers from whom some film makers got the clue that America was developing "antimatter" weapons and made movies and documentaries that were nearly taken as true. The Antimatter is one of the strangest discoveries in physics - an opposite to the 'normal' matter which makes up the world in which we live our everyday lives, and which annihilates anything it touches in a blinding flash of energy.
Comprising Nine chapters, most of them start with questions or hypothesis or rumour. And it is too good that the answers come out explaining many things about Physics even for the lay man. The Tunguska event, where there was a blast in the sky in 1908 without any debris or crater to its credit is thought to be a fusion of matter with antimatter. Though this is the Close's view, there is no solid proof of this, I found.
Then there is this 'philosophical' approach towards the lives on Earth. Describing humans as "Nuclear Waste", the author writes "Oxygen you breath, Carbon in your skin, ink on this page etc. was made of stars about 5 billion years ago. To an extent this is a fact that one atom in our right hand might have a different parentage than those in the left. There is mention about the Nobel prize for the discovery of positron. The diagrams on waves and loops are interesting. There is also mention about LHC, but here in this book I came to know that it was earlier called as LEP (Large Electron Positron Collidor).
Dirac's famous equation "i*gamma*dow sigh= m sigh" is discussed with slight hinting that this might have been the foundation for Schrodinger's solution to the energy of the particle. The most interesting part in this is the description that a^2=1; b^2=1 and aXb is not zero, that is their sum axb+bxa =0, is dealt with solution in matrices. The matrices and determinents form the basic parts of quantum mechanics.
Anderson's experiment on positron trapping and Millikan's one on charge determination are described well with illustration. Blackett's study of about 20,000 photos of the 'waves' from 1921-24 suggests how hard work one has to do come up with one small discovery - the identification of Positron!
Annihilation is dealt with at large in one of the chapters where the author writes "We breath in oxygen , exhale carbon di oxide, grow and die, but the atoms will continue" delivers the fact of our existance on earth. There is brief description into other particles like gluon, W, Z etc.
I found Feynmann in a slightly poor light when there is mention about his reason for not publishing the famous eponymous diagrams in some leading journal. He says that it was war time when drawing experts were not available. The easy diagrams, the author claims, could have been drawn by himself easily, but for 'stealing' work he did from Stueckelberg's idea. There are many such instances in science where ideas have been stolen.
The last two chapters describe particle Physics/Chemistry, call it the way you like about these ubitquitous fermions. The Tunguska event is again brought back to prove that anti-matter weapons would be impossible on paper given the fact that 1g of antimatter can be produced per year by present set up of the advanced lab elsewhere. Close explores many of the theories surrounding the symmetries between normal matter and antimatter, as well as offering some thoughts on why we might see a universe which appears to be largely devoid of antimatter. While a small handful of antimatter particles have been created in labs around the world, as well as a few dozen antihydrogen atoms, the mysterious lack of antimatter in the universe remains one of the questions needing a great deal of further research to explain.
The appendix is very informative, especially the Dirac code and the poser to arrive at a^2=1; b^2=1 and aXb+bXa=0, whose solution can be found using Matrices. The book is good if you like particle physics and are a layperson with regard to science.
”If you want to use antimatter you must first make every antiparticle" - which is a very inefficient process.