One of the biggest mysteries of science is why the universe is made up of matter and not antimatter. But The New York Times reports that physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory say they have a theory about why matter created life as we know it in the universe. This information may also help shape future discoveries at the Large Hadron Collider outside of Geneva.
When the universe was created by the Big Bang, equal amounts of matter and antimatter were thought to have been created. But according to Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, the matter and antimatter should have destroyed each other in a spectacular blaze just moments after the Big Bang. Under that scenario, we would have never existed. Of course we do exist, but the question of why has long piqued the curiosity of scientists studying the cosmos.
Physicists have looked into this mystery by sifting through data from collisions of protons and antiprotons at Fermilab’s Tevatron, a powerful particle accelerator that creates a mini-universe inside it. They found that fireballs created pairs of the particles known as muons slightly more often than they produced pairs of antimuons. Muons are a kind of fat electron. This caused the mini-universe inside the Tevatron to shift to 1 percent more matter than antimatter. Guennadi Borissov is a co-leader of this study from Lancaster University in England. As he told The New York Times, “This result may provide an important input for explaining the matter dominance in our universe.”
Scientists think the answer to this mystery could have something to do with what is called a CP violation, or the light difference in the properties of particles and antiparticles. Over the years, some scientists have discovered a rare CP violation between subatomic particles that move slightly in favor of matter over antimatter. However, this alone was never enough to explain our existence.
The new theory looks at particles called neutral B-mesons. B-mesons are particles that move back and forth between a matter and an antimatter state. As The New York Times explains it, “the mesons, created in the proton-antiproton collisions, seem to go from their antimatter state to their matter state more rapidly than they go the other way around, leading to an eventual preponderance of matter over antimatter of about 1 percent, when they decay to muons. “