Hard to make, and even harder to contain, antimatter has been accepted as yet another of the universe’s many strange features for a while now, but scientists would still like to confirm that the stuff really is the exact opposite of the particles that comprise our world. Unfortunately, keeping it around long enough to observe its properties requires large, expensive facilities. Otherwise the antimatter crashes into normal matter, and the two opposites annihilate each other after a trillionth of a second.
But now Japanese physicist Masaki Hori is trying to contain these shy particles in a box the size of an office trash bin. The key is that Hori plans to use radiofrequency waves instead of magnetic fields, which require serious equipment to generate. His name for the device – superconducting radiofrequency quadrupole trap – probably won’t enter the vernacular, but the chance to inexpensively study these strange particles could lead to some truly wild findings. Hori is essentially trying to prove the idea – predicted by a common physics theorem – that a Bizzaro universe constructed entirely of antimatter would be indistinguishable from our own. Naturally, though, he’s starting small. He hopes to mash a collection of antimatter particles together to create new atoms. A mirror universe wouldn’t quite fit in that box.—Gregory Mone