The word for the day is bureaucracy. NASA is in the final stages of assembling the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Part of the machine’s purpose is to search for evidence of the existence of anti-matter by reading the cosmic rays. Since not all rays on planet Earth are, by their nature, cosmic, the gadget needs to be mounted on the International Space Station, sort of like a satellite dish bolted to the top of a mobile home. Sort of high-tech white trashy.
The problem with this whole thing? Despite the fact that they are almost done building this thing, there’s no guarantee that it will launch. You see, we only actually have three space shuttles. That’s right. Three. Five were built. Two blew up. The nature of science is such that most projects take a very long time to complete. So this spectrometer project has been going on for a while, but when Columbia disintegrated in 2003, they had to alter the launch schedule. I mean, we have been pushing these ships to the limit. It’s a tough job. They are old! Older than my crappy Beretta and that thing is on its last legs. With only three space-worthy shuttles, that puts the US in a pretty awkward position. The entire world depends on our shuttle program, and the entire fleet (such as it is) is going to be retired next year. It’s pretty sad, honestly. So they finish building the spectrometer and hope that they can launch it.
Part of the AMS’s mission is the search for evidence of anti-matter. And, as anyone who has read a Dan Brown novel knows, anti-matter is pretty tricky stuff. It’s exactly like normal matter except that if it comes into contact with normal matter, both substances “annihilate” which is, they cease to be matter and are transformed into pure energy, mostly in the form of heat. In layman’s terms: big freaking explosion. Pretty cool, huh? The question is, since our galaxy is made of normal matter, is it possible that there are entire galaxies, solar systems, planets, or even intelligent life forms made entirely of anti-matter? It sounds like a plot from a bad comic book, but the fact remains that it’s entirely possible. The crazy of it is, that we could never actually meet these beings because if we tried to shake hands, we would blow each other straight to oblivion.
How much energy is released in one of these explosions? Remember the famous equation, E=mc2. You take the mass of the two beings–one made of normal matter, the other, of the anti-variety–and add them together. Probably 180kg, assuming they are about the same size as we. You know, it doesn’t matter, because no matter how much mass they are, you end up multiplying it by c2. What does c stand for? The fucking speed of light. That’s right. And you square it, which means that an incredibly huge amount of energy is locked up in matter. But we all knew that, right?
Wouldn’t it be ironic if NASA never got the funding to launch this machine, so we never discovered whether or not there were anti-matter galaxies, and then, say, a few years from now, some amazing energy source is found that allows us to travel between galaxies, and, wouldn’t you know it, the first galaxy that we travel to is made entirely of anti-matter? It could happen, people. It could happen, and won’t we all feel like dorks for not giving NASA their measly two billion dollars?
In other news, soon, the internet will be able to answer all of your questions. Finally! I’m so sick of the internet being totally useless. At long last, I never have to wade through google and wikipedia to find just about any information I could possibly hope for. I jest, of course, this thing looks totally keen.
Last but not least, since I’m a little strapped for time, let’s see if I can toss two stories into one sentence. Soon, you’ll be able to use your brand new, silicon invisibility cloak to avoid spiders that want to inject sperm into you with hypodermic penises. That is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.