Antimatter ships: Still a long ways away

"The most abundant source of antiprotons near the Earth" contains exactly 28 antiprotons. Which suggests, says Jennifer Ouellette, that it's going to be a while before we're flying to the stars—Star Trek-like—on antimatter-powered ships. (Via Hi, I'm Monkey)



  1. From New Scientist:

    “Between July 2006 and December 2008, PAMELA detected 28 antiprotons trapped in spiralling orbits around the magnetic field lines sprouting from the Earth’s south pole (Astrophysical Journal Letters, DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/737/2/l29). PAMELA samples only a small part of the inner radiation belt, but antiprotons are probably trapped throughout it. “We are talking about of billions of particles,” says team member Francesco Cafagna from the University of Bari in Italy.”

  2. You know how sometimes when you’ve worked a 15-hour shift your brain plays tricks on you? Somehow the word “antiprotons” shifted to the end of “Jennifer” in the second line of the article, and at a glance, I thought Jennifer Aniston had somehow jerked her attention away from her hair and figured this whole mess out. Time for go to bed.

  3.  It’s only 28 if you look at it from a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.  So ships could be leaving in a fortnight if we’re really clever. 

  4. IIRC, Starfleet doesn’t actually “mine” antimatter from the Van Allen belts or wherever; they have means of producing it using solar energy, as well as a machine aboard their starships that can produce antihydrogen from some of the interstellar hydrogen collected by the Bussard ramscoops (the red glowing things on the front of warp nacelles); the process is really inefficient, using a lot of hydrogen to produce a little antihydrogen, and is mostly used to top off the tanks in between fuel stops.

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