Physicists at University of California, Riverside have created a rare molecule in the lab, positronium, that could eventually aid in fusion power generation or gamma ray lasers. The positronium molecules are each made up of a pair of electrons and their antimatter twins, positrons. The work, described in the most recent issue of the journal Nature, involves shooting bursts of positrons at a thin film of silica. Electrons within the silica can trap the positrons, creating a short-lived molecule of positronium.
If two of these positronium particles happen to bump into one another before disappearing, they annihilate themselves and give off a burst of gamma radiation—hence the potential for a gamma laser. Though lead researcher David Cassidy (pictured, on the left) does bear a resemblance to the lead character of a certain 2003 film detailing the effects of gamma radiation, there’s no evidence that he’s unlikeable when angry.—Gregory Mone