February 3, 2011

Antimatter hey, antimatter ho...

Jonathan Coulton, who we've mentioned before, is somewhat famous for his "Thing a Week" project, in which he recorded a new song every week for a year. A pretty strict schedule ... and yet downright lax compared to that of Jonathan Mann, who has been posting a new song to YouTube every single day for over two years running! His Song A Day #686 ("CERN Created and Held Anti-Matter") is our selection as this week's Science Song of the Week. Feel free to sing along with the chorus: "Antimatter hey, antimatter ho -- our model of the universe needs you, bro...."

Mann's song was chosen because it may serve as a fun entry point into a recent Science News article, "Sizing up the electron," which explains the connection between electrons and antimatter as follows.
[The electron] inspired the mathematical equation that first hinted at the existence of antimatter, the exotic, oppositely charged counterpart to ordinary matter.

Now the electron is poised to go one step further, by helping scientists understand why matter triumphed over antimatter in the early universe. In theory, the Big Bang should have created matter and antimatter in equal amounts, but if so they would have annihilated each other and left nothing behind.

Though the standard model of particle physics, the mathematical framework for explaining how stuff is held together, can't quite account for how matter beat out antimatter, some theories that go beyond the standard model do. By carefully measuring the shape of the electron, through a particular property known as the electric dipole moment, scientists think they can narrow those theories down to get at the one that best reflects reality.

"The electron EDM is one of the places where there should be a good chance of seeing some new phenomena that can't be explained in the standard model, and could in turn help to explain this matter-antimatter imbalance in the universe," says physicist David DeMille of Yale University.

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