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"Retire? Yeah, I want to die with my head in the typewriter. That's my idea of retirement."
- Alfred Bester
|A single particle of antimatter - an antiproton.
This is an early science fiction story about antimatter* - the story calls it "minus elements". It opens with an unusual object seen at great distance from the Earth, and subsequently investigated:
A week later the rocket was circling cautiously around the unknown body. It was about the size of the Moon, but little could be seen of its surface, which appeared to be under a continuous bombardment with some immensely high explosive. The flashes from the explosions, consisting mainly of cosmic, gammas, and UV's, were evidently the source of the light which load puzzled the observers. Carter and Poggenpohl crouched behind their lead-glass screens and watched.
“Looks like a flourescent screen being bombarded by electrons, Jimmy. Somewhat larger scale, though. More bombardment on the forward side, too."
“Yes, there is. It looks as though it were sweeping a path through space as it approaches the Earth. Man that gun, will you, please, and fire a solid shot at it when we go around the rear of it again ?''
“O. K. Don’t see what you’re driving at, though. Do you expect a bell to ring, like in a shooting gallery? I'll signal when I fire, and aim directly at the center when we’re exactly behind it.”
The minute went by, then, “Ready — fired! Watch for it!"
There was no need to watch. Twenty minutes later, when the hundred-pound piece of steel hit the surface of the wandering planet, there was a tremendous flash, dwarfing those which had been observed.
Keep in mind that this was written in 1937, and the description of antimatter is not accurate.
(* See also The Great Thirst, a 1934 story by the great Nat Schachner; see positron beam. Take a look at The Roaring Blot, by Frank Belknap Long and published in 1936. It doesn't mention particle-antiparticle annihilation, but it directly references P.A.M. Dirac's work.)
|"You remember, when we first saw this thing, I put you through a quiz on matter? I had a hunch then, and I've proved it. You described the sort of matter with which we are familiar. Look here. You said that matter was made up of neutrons and positrons, in the last analysis, in the nuclei, and of electrons on the outside. Well, there is another sort of matter possible. What is to prevent an electron from combining closely with a neutron, and forming a negative proton? The possibility was mentioned way back in 1934, and I think the old boy even gave his hypothetical particle a name—an 'antron,' I think he called it. Now take some of these antrons, and some extra neutrons, and make a nucleus out of them, and then release enough positrons on the outside to balance the antrons. And one has an atom with a negative atomic number, since the atomic number of an atom, of course, is the number of positive charges on the nucleus.
"And now one makes a whole universe with these minus elements. And one makes oneself out of them, too, and lives in the place, and can't tell the difference between it and a regular universe. All the physical laws will be the same—but just wait until part of your new universe hits part of a regular universe! Figure it out. What do you think will happen?"
"Uh—let's see. First the outer electrons in our matter will neutralize the outer positrons in the reverse matter—and there'll be a hell of a lot of light or other radiation—UV, gamma, cosmic and what not. Then the nuclei will get together. Nothing will happen to either set of neutrons. But the positrons on the protons will neutralize the electrons on the antrons, and there'll be another burst of radiation and a lot of neutrons left over. So the net result will be a mob of neutrons and a flock of radiation. What do you think? Is that thing out there"—he gestured toward the anomalous planet they were leaving behind—"out of a reverse universe?"
|Technovelgy from Minus Planet,
by John D. Clark, Ph.D.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1937
Additional resources -
The positron was predicted by Dirac; the positron or anti-electron is the antiparticle or the antimatter counterpart of the electron.
Carl D. Anderson was the first scientist to report a sighting of the positron in a cloud chamber
. A rather young physicist working at Caltech, Anderson was analyzing cosmic ray tracks when he
came upon something peculiar. He noticed that one particle seemed to make precisely the track of an
electron, but its path curvature suggested that it had a positive charge. It quickly became obvious to
him that this particle was indeed the positron predicted by Dirac's calculations. He published his
results, and was actually the man who coined the name “positron”.
See also contraterrene matter from Collision Orbit (1942) by Jack Williamson.
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