News on Campus
SOMETHING FROM NOTHING
n a novel experiment at the Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center, investigators forced light beams to collide with
each other in a vacuum and created two tiny specks of matter. The
crashing beams conjured up an electron and its antimatter counterpart, a
Physicists had long thought this possible, but no laboratory could pump
enough power into the colliding beams of radiation to create matter from
nothingness. The Stanford linear acclerator, however, had enough juice
to do the job.
One of the light beams used in the experiment was produced by a
trillion-watt green laser, but that wasnt enough. It was the other beam
boosted by energy drawn from electrons whizzing down the
two-mile-long accelerator that supplied the needed energy. The
photons from the laser were allowed to collide almost head on with
47-billion-electron-volt electrons shot from the particle accelerator.
The field created by the electrons colliding was so high, Dr. Adrian C.
Melissinos of the University of Rochester said, that the vacuum within
the experiment spontaneously broke down, creating real particles of
matter and antimatter.
The idea of doing something like this is based on Einsteins special
theory of relativity, which showed that matter and energy are equivalent
and that one can be transformed into the other through the famous
equation E = mc2. This explains the vast energy released by matter in
nuclear explosions, but it also means that a huge amount of energy is
required to create even the tiniest particles of matter.
While this is all very interesting, the experiment is unlikely to have
many practical applications, though it might help in the design of a new
generation of research accelerators.
A possible future accelerator might work by colliding opposing beams
of photons. ST