Home > Science > Quite possibly the coolest thing ever: Part I

Quite possibly the coolest thing ever: Part I

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ll admit it: I get a wee bit hyperbolic when it comes to exciting science news. Whether it’s bee balls, giant sea blobs, or crap slamming into planets, whatever latest science story that I read that piques my interest instantly becomes the most interesting  and amazing thing ever. This time, though, I feel that my excitement is entirely justified.

Antimatter signatures have been discovered in lightning. It turns out that positrons exist in lightning as well as electrons. From Sciencenews

During two recent lightning storms, Fermi recorded gamma-ray emissions of a particular energy that could have been produced only by the decay of energetic positrons, the antimatter equivalent of electrons. The observations are the first of their kind for lightning storms. Michael Briggs of the University of Alabama in Huntsville announced the puzzling findings November 5 at the 2009 Fermi Symposium.

While I was growing up, antimatter was this nebulous thing that could be explained but I never really could visualize. It’s the opposite of matter, a proton with a negative charge and an electron with a positive charge, but if it comes in contact with matter they annihilate each other releasing pure energy. Since I could never really imagine what antimatter looked like, it was always something that felt just out of my grasp of understanding. As it turns out, antimatter has been around me my whole life, in the guise of one of the most spectacular displays that nature can muster. Even if you’re not a science junkie, I hope this finding is enough to get you to think for a moment and lose yourself in quite awe next time a thunderstorm rolls by.

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