A very simple question: What is matter?
Matter can be seen as the substance of which physical objects are composed. It constitutes the observable Universe. There is a tendency to regard manifestations of energy, such as light and sound, as not being material. Matter exists in the form of a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma – anything that has mass, occupies space, has inertia, and can be detected, and measured. Finally, all matter is made up of atoms.
What then is anti-matter (for that matter)?
In 1930, PAM Dirac (1902-1984) the English theoretical physicist known for his work in Quantum Mechanics and for his theory of the spinning electron applied the concept of negative numbers (-1, -2, -3, etc.) to his theoretical studies of nuclear physics and came up with the idea of negative matter or ‘anti-matter’, as it is now called. Specifically, Dirac predicted the existence of a new elementary particle that he likened to a negative electron (a negative, negative, i.e. a positive – therefore a positron).
According to Dirac’s theory, this particle would have the mass of an electron, but would have a positive rather than a negative electric charge, and if it ever came ever near an electron, ‘both particles would be annihilated instantly’.
Where do they go? Now this is a case of genuine imagination for you! After death, there is no annihilation in Greek Mythology. The dead are dead because they have a flavourless and unhappy existence in the Underworld. Those who are practically dead but exist and dwell in all happiness in the Isles of the Blest or Elysium are called Immortals. Therefore, life and death are qualities of existence, not lack of it. This seems to be the case here too!
This last part (‘having a positive rather than a negative electric charge and if it ever came near an electron, both particles would be annihilated instantly’) was the most unusual feature of the ‘positron’ – as Dirac named his theoretical particle. Yet it was his best guess of what would happen to an ordinary particle such as an electron if it were to be combined with its negative counterpart – as with the addition of a ‘negative 10’ (-10) to a ‘positive 10’ (+10), the result was apt to be zero (-10 + [+10] = 10 - 10 = 0).
In 1932, Dirac’s prediction was ‘confirmed in every respect’ when CD Anderson (1905-1991) identified the tracks of positrons in his cloud chamber. Remember the tracks of something like Big Foot, the Abominable snowman, the Tibetan ‘Yeti’, yes! UFOs come to mind too.
Since then, a myriad of laboratory experiments have ‘confirmed’ the existence of positrons and have turned up negative counterparts to all other known sub-nuclear particles, including the proton and neutron. Well, who am I to argue – anti-matter no less? The scientists must tell the politicians something because they spend ‘myriads’ of bucks (beans?) on these fairy tales!
The heroes throughout Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings are opposed by the Ringwraiths. As each archetype has a negative aspect, so the hero, says Carl Jung (1875-1961), is especially threatened by dissolution ‘under the impact of the collective forces of the psyche.’ The characteristic challenge is from ‘the old, evil power of darkness’ which threatens to overwhelm the hero and the self-identity he is striving to bring about.
The power of Sauron the Dark Lord is exactly such an old and evil force, and in The Lord of the Rings his representatives, the negative counterparts of the heroes, are the Black Riders (not Black Holes). The menace they present balances perfectly the power that emanates from the heroic Aragorn, whiles their dissolution in Sauron’s old and evil darkness, representing the loss of self, is indicated by the fact that the black riders have no faces.
Consequently, ‘anti-matter (negative counterparts) is now recognised by physicists to be as significant a part of the natural world’ as negative numbers are of the algebraic realm and as Big Foots and Black Riders are for many of us. It is said to ‘exist’ in abundance at the sub-nuclear level (the imaginary world of Middle-earth); though for reasons not well understood, there is a notable absence (?) of it in our earthly environment.
Some astronomers speculate, however, that ‘stars and galaxies made entirely of anti-matter may be strewn throughout the universe’. Big Foots may be strewn throughout northern America, Russia, and the Himalayas for that matter! And well, Black Riders are all over Middle-earth!
Today, though scientific theories ‘agree’ that anti-matter is the embodiment of mathematical negativity, they differ in their explanations of what exactly about it is negative.
According to Dirac’s theory, the explanation has something to do with ‘energy’. As Dirac puts it, the presence or a positron with positive energy is the physical manifestation of the absence of an electron with negative energy.
Wow, bless my soul! Positrons, in other words, are as positively sensible as the absence of any sound is positively silent. Well, well, now we also have positive and negative energy as well! However, then again, I know people with negative energy. Say, Good and evil, Marduk and Tiamat, Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, Christ and Antichrist right down to the atomic realm.
But now, according to physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), the explanation of anti-matter’s negativity has something to do with ‘time’. Specifically, Feynman says that ‘a positron moving forward in time is the physical equivalent of an electron moving backward in time’. Here, forward is meant to be associated with the positive direction and backward with the opposite, negative direction. I am pretty sure that with a bit of imagination we can make a case for reincarnation here! It is a real pity that Albert (Einstein) is not with us anymore – he had lots of (positive) imagination!
Although there are certain ‘technical advantages’ (?) to Feynman’s idea, scientists do not yet have any empirical evidence with which to make a final choice between the two theories. Nonetheless, because both theories use the concept of negative quantities, it is accurate to say that particles of anti-matter are the mathematicians’ negative numbers incarnate. This is a bad dream, right?
What is energy or gravitation? No, the moral is being positive, but do not ask innocent questions. You never know what the answer might entail!