Science fiction's treatment of antimatter, considered by particle physicists

Bill Higgins sez,

Starting in 1942, Jack Williamson wrote a series of stories about tough space miners who go after antimatter asteroids. There's the hope of unlimited energy, but the danger that any touch unleashes nuclear hell.

In the latest issue of Symmetry, a magazine about particle physics, I've traced the chain of scientific developments in the 1930s and 1940s that inspired Williamson to write his "Seetee" tales– if not the first, certainly the most influential stories to explore the physics of "contraterrene" (CT) matter.

Fermilab, where I work, manufactures antiprotons in quantity, so I enjoyed looking backwards at the ancestors of our business, tracking down the long-ago crossover where an abstruse possibility in nuclear physics led to speculation that flowed from astronomy to meteor science to SF.

Best of all, we obtained an image of Jack Williamson's carbon copy of "Collision Orbit." In their regular "Logbook" feature, the editors treated the manuscript with the reverence due a historic lab notebook, letter, or graph.

The Seetee stories originated in a weathered shack back of the family home on the Williamson ranch, which Jack built himself in 1934 so he could write in seclusion. This shack is still the object of occasional pilgrimages by 21st-century science fiction writers. See Scott Edelman's tour.

( Symmetry describes itself as "a magazine about particle physics and its connections to other aspects of life and science, from interdisciplinary collaborations to policy to culture.")

Antimatter's science fiction debut

(Thanks, Bill!)