...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Day 2447: The Di-lithium Crystals Will Nae Tak' It, Cap'n!


It must be an ANTI-MATTER sort of a year – we have only just finished watching Dr Who's adventures with Omega, who is trying to escape from his Anti-matter universe over the "Arc of Infinity", and next month we find Dr Tom meeting Professor Sorenson, who is trying to steal anti-matter sweeties from the "Planet of Evil".

But in the REAL world, anti-matter does not exist… OR DOES IT?!?!?!

Apparently we can MAKE anti-matter using STICKY-BACKED PLASTIC and a PARTICLE COLLIDER.

By firing a beam of positrons (the name for anti-matter electrons) at a screen (recommended is a sheet of crystalline quartz) you can get some of the positrons to combine with ordinary matter electrons to form an EXOTIC ATOM called POSITRONIUM. This is said to be a BIT like Hydrogen except a lot LIGHTER because it uses a positron instead of a proton (which is almost two thousand times heavier).

When Hydrogen is a free gas, you may know that it is made up of pairs of Hydrogen atoms travelling around together: H2. For years and years, since 1964 in fact, scientists have predicted that you could make a similar material called DI-positronium, which has NOTHING to do with LADY DI, because that just means there are TWO positronium atoms in it.

You MAY need a grown-up to help you.

On the other fluffy foot, any grown up who CAN help you is likely to be a MAD SCIENTIST and if you see one carrying a bucket of Di-positronium around, I suggest you run the other way. And/or bundle them up in the sticky-backed plastic.

They say that by mixing matter with anti-matter (VERY CAREFULLY) they can make a special sort of stuff called a Bose-Einstein Condensate. (As opposed to a Bose-Einstein CONCENTRATE with is what Hiro from Heroes does to bend space and time.)

This is just one step short of allowing the matter and anti-matter to MUTUALLY ANNIHILATE in a flash of energy. Very useful, especially if you want to make powerful gamma-ray lasers.

Did I mention MAD SCIENTISTS already?

Meanwhile, there are calls for a REAL LIFE British Rocket Group – the Space Exploration Working Group, or SEWG – to launch British Astronauts into space.

And about time too! It is SHAMEFUL that our country has been AVOIDING any space project that involves sending people off the Earth! Here we are, supposedly PROUD of our grand tradition of inventers and explorers and DISCOVERERS… and we are sitting on our fluffy feet and letting all the other people do all the work. We don't even pay our own share of the European Space programme – we only pay TWO-hundred million euros a year while the Germans invest FIVE-hundred-and-fifty million and the French spend almost EIGHT-hundred million! The FRENCH!

Do you want to get into outer space only to find that the French have already booked all the restaurants? Or that there are German TOWELS already all over all the CRATERS on the MOON!

It is time we got stuck in!

As you ca tell, I am VERY KEEN on this idea, and try to draw it to Daddy's attention.

"Nice ACRONYM," he says, "we're sending SEWaGe into space!"

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