Feeds

Results in on why life, the universe and everything exists

10-year study indicates that theoretically it shouldn't

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

It's one of the most difficult questions that human philosophy and science have ever faced: Why are we here? Why is the universe and all that's in it here?

The question becomes particularly knotty when one reflects on modern physics and the issue of antimatter. Theory shows that at the creation of the universe, equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been called into existence.

The trouble here is that when matter meets antimatter, both are instantly annihilated in a devastating blast of energy. Thus, according to theory, everything should have swiftly become nothing again. Instead, much much later, we see a universe in which there's a lot of normal matter - though certainly very thinly spread out - and almost no antimatter at all.

What boffinry can't account for is why there should have been more matter than antimatter at the beginning, and thus how it is that life, the universe and everything comes to be in existence now.

"The question is: why was there an excess of one over the other in the first place?" says Pieter Mumm, physicist at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. "There are lots of theories attempting to explain the imbalance, but there's no experimental evidence to show that any of them can account for it. It's a huge mystery on the level of asking why the universe is here. Accepted physics can't explain it."

Mumm and his colleagues had rather been hoping to sort this out by conducting a 10-year probe into neutron decay at the NIST Centre for Neutron Research. There are two ways for a neutron to decay: both result in a proton, an electron and an electron antineutrino, but they come out in different configurations. If the lengthy investigation had shown that either path was more commonly taken than the other, this would have given the physicists a handle on just why anything now exists.

Sadly from the point of view of an answer to the Great Question, no such difference could be detected. Still, Mumm and the crew aren't too downhearted as their results, at least, have shut off various speculative theories.

"We have placed very tight constraints on what these theories can say," Mumm says. "We have given theory something to work with. And if we can modify our detector successfully, we can envision limiting large classes of theories. It will help ensure the physics community avoids traveling down blind alleys."

The research is published in Physical Review Letters, and there's commentary for laymen by NIST here. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?