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October 04, 2004

Your Daily Warporn Fix: Air Force Researching Anti-Matter Weapons

Ohhh-oh-oh...

The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source -- antimatter, the eerie "mirror" of ordinary matter -- in future weapons.

...

In a sense, matter and antimatter are the yin and yang of reality: Every type of subatomic particle has its antimatter counterpart. But when matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate each other in an immense burst of energy.

"annihilate my protons"...

More cataclysmic possible uses include a new generation of super weapons...

cataclysmic superweapons, very hot, very hot...

-- either pure antimatter bombs or antimatter-triggered nuclear weapons; the former wouldn't emit radioactive fallout....

Following an initial inquiry from The Chronicle this summer, the Air Force forbade its employees from publicly discussing the antimatter research program. Still, details on the program appear in numerous Air Force documents distributed over the Internet prior to the ban.

These include an outline of a March 2004 speech by an Air Force official who, in effect, spilled the beans about the Air Force's high hopes for antimatter weapons. On March 24, Kenneth Edwards, director of the "revolutionary munitions" team at the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida was keynote speaker at the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) conference in Arlington, Va.

mmmm.... revolutionary munitions...

In that talk, Edwards discussed the potential uses of a type of antimatter called positrons.

Positrons, also known as the nymphomaniacal, polymorphously perverse she-males of the subatomic "scene."

General Edwards sounds like he's very naughty, and naughty generals require spankings.

...

In 1929, Dirac suggested that the building blocks of atoms -- electrons (negatively charged particles) and protons (positively charged particles) -- have antimatter counterparts: antielectrons and antiprotons. One fundamental difference between matter and antimatter is that their subatomic building blocks carry opposite electric charges. Thus, while an ordinary electron is negatively charged, an antielectron is positively charged (hence the term positrons, which means "positive electrons"); and while an ordinary proton is positively charged, an antiproton is negative.

yes yes yes y-esss....

The real excitement, though, is this: If electrons or protons collide with their antimatter counterparts, they annihilate each other. In so doing, they unleash more energy than any other known energy source, even thermonuclear bombs....

Allright, I'm done. Anyone want to order Chinese?

General Tso's? General Tso's? Who's up for some General Tso's chicken?

Not Hot at All Update:

In the meantime, the Air Force has been investigating the possibility of making use of a powerful positron-generating accelerator under development at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. One goal: to see if positrons generated by the accelerator can be stored for long periods inside a new type of "antimatter trap" proposed by scientists, including Washington State physicist Kelvin Lynn, head of the school's Center for Materials Research.

...

Besides, Lynn is enthusiastic about antimatter because he believes it could propel futuristic space rockets.

"I think," he said, "we need to get off this planet, because I'm afraid we're going to destroy it."

Hysterical whining isn't very sexy at all. I can just see this guy in his ponytail, strumming his doucheboy folk guitar, trying to pick up chicks by crooning about blowing up the world with positrons in his self-penned "Big Yellow Anti-Matter-Producing Supercollider."

That sorta worked in college. Thankfully, it stops working (mostly) for anyone over age 25, which is one of the few assurances that there is justice in the world.

Mirror Matter Update: Ripper suggests that I check out Mirror Matter, which is explained in this BBC piece.

This website is more breathless, but I can't help linking it, because it suggests that "Mirror Matter" might explain one of my private obsessions, the Tunguska Fireball.


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posted by Ace at 11:20 AM

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