Scientists create tabletop antimatter 'gun,' cartoon supervillians twirl mustaches anew
At the University of Michigan, an international team of physicists has begun experimenting with its tabletop-sized super laser, modding it into an antimatter “gun.” It’s not quite a black hole-firing pistol, but we’re slightly terrified nonetheless. Up until now, machines capable of creating positrons — coupled with electrons, they comprise the energy similar to what’s emitted by black holes and pulsars — have needed to be as large as they are expensive. Creating these antimatter beams on a small scale will hopefully give astrophysicists greater insight into the “enigmatic features” of gamma ray bursts that are “virtually impossible to address by relying on direct observations,” according to a paper published at arXiv. While the blasts only last fractions of a second each, the researchers report each firing produces a particle-density output level comparable to the accelerator at CERN. Just like that, the Longhorns/Wolverines super-laser arms-race begins again.

By Timothy J. Seppala