Saturday, 6 October 2007

Melyn Bragg - Antimatter

reposted from: Melvyn Braggs Newsletter today


.... contradictions between matter and antimatter.

One thing that fascinates me when I enter into the area of physics is the glossary that I usually get hold of. The glossary of physics terms.

Antimatter itself, of course: “material made from antifermions”,
fermions: “any particle that has odd-half-integer (1/2, 3/2 ...) intrinsic angular momentum (spin), measured in units of h-bar”, boson, hadron, kaon, photon, positron … I can understand why Christopher Marlowe was so entranced by the great names of cities and places which came out of the East and understand the allure of the shipping forecast to all of us – Seamus Heaney wrote a memorable poem about it which is a poetically-shaped listing of that reassuring, but somehow gallant, tour of these islands.

And so to antimatter. Once again, you have to be impressed by the generosity of people who are at the coal-face of modern physics, taking the time and finding the energy to communicate elliptically and, I thought, extraordinarily clearly, knowledge accumulated over so many years and making of such complicated matter (sorry) an understandable case.

At times, there is a faint whiff of the past. Is it a new version of how many angels can dance on the point of a needle?
In a sense, of course, it is.
Some men and women have always bent their minds to find out what is most difficult to discover, whether that has been of a philosophical, a religious or a scientific nature doesn’t much matter in one sense, ie: the sense that it is the exercise of intelligence itself which is the pleasure and the drive.

I’m Now off to endure a piece of science myself - a cataract to be removed. Not so very long ago, this was an operation spoken of in hushed tones, as if some curse had to be lifted. Now everybody tells me that it is the easiest thing in the world, a blink, a cinch, little more than brushing your teeth. I hope they’re right. I have a lot of reading to do as I am deep into Cormac McCarthy at the moment. I started on him two or three years ago and have now gone back to read as much of him as I can.

Now for a walk in Regent’s Park to limber up for the op. Should be wonderful this time of year, the leaves just turning to brown. I suppose being born in October might mean that you have a closer affinity with it. Discuss?

Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

Visit the In Our Time website:

or download the latest edition as an mp3 file:

1 comment:

Eaton said...

Hi Melyn Bragg,

I share your interest in considering things that are not well understood. In terms of antimatter, there is a new cosmologic model that is based on a fresh understanding of the relationship between matter and antimatter that appears pretty air-tight.

The new model is being unfolded on the following thread: