Feeds

Results in on why life, the universe and everything exists

10-year study indicates that theoretically it shouldn't

Application security programs and practises

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.