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11/22/2017 10:05:29 PM
Posted: 10/4/2004 2:21:30 PM EST


www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2004/10/04/MNGM393GPK1.DTL

Air Force pursuing antimatter weapons

Program was touted publicly, then came official gag order

Keay Davidson, Chronicle Science Writer
Monday, October 4, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle

The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source -- antimatter, the eerie "mirror" of ordinary matter -- in future weapons.

The most powerful potential energy source presently thought to be available to humanity, antimatter is a term normally heard in science-fiction films and TV shows, whose heroes fly "antimatter-powered spaceships" and do battle with "antimatter guns."

But antimatter itself isn't fiction; it actually exists and has been intensively studied by physicists since the 1930s. In a sense, matter and antimatter are the yin and yang of reality: Every type of subatomic particle has its antimatter counterpart. But when matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate each other in an immense burst of energy.

During the Cold War, the Air Force funded numerous scientific studies of the basic physics of antimatter. With the knowledge gained, some Air Force insiders are beginning to think seriously about potential military uses -- for example, antimatter bombs small enough to hold in one's hand, and antimatter engines for 24/7 surveillance aircraft.

More cataclysmic possible uses include a new generation of super weapons -- either pure antimatter bombs or antimatter-triggered nuclear weapons; the former wouldn't emit radioactive fallout. Another possibility is antimatter- powered "electromagnetic pulse" weapons that could fry an enemy's electric power grid and communications networks, leaving him literally in the dark and unable to operate his society and armed forces.

Following an initial inquiry from The Chronicle this summer, the Air Force forbade its employees from publicly discussing the antimatter research program. Still, details on the program appear in numerous Air Force documents distributed over the Internet prior to the ban.

These include an outline of a March 2004 speech by an Air Force official who, in effect, spilled the beans about the Air Force's high hopes for antimatter weapons. On March 24, Kenneth Edwards, director of the "revolutionary munitions" team at the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida was keynote speaker at the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) conference in Arlington, Va.

In that talk, Edwards discussed the potential uses of a type of antimatter called positrons.

Physicists have known about positrons or "antielectrons" since the early 1930s, when Caltech scientist Carl Anderson discovered a positron flying through a detector in his laboratory. That discovery, and the later discovery of "antiprotons" by Berkeley scientists in the 1950s, upheld a 1920s theory of antimatter proposed by physicist Paul Dirac.

In 1929, Dirac suggested that the building blocks of atoms -- electrons (negatively charged particles) and protons (positively charged particles) -- have antimatter counterparts: antielectrons and antiprotons. One fundamental difference between matter and antimatter is that their subatomic building blocks carry opposite electric charges. Thus, while an ordinary electron is negatively charged, an antielectron is positively charged (hence the term positrons, which means "positive electrons"); and while an ordinary proton is positively charged, an antiproton is negative.

The real excitement, though, is this: If electrons or protons collide with their antimatter counterparts, they annihilate each other. In so doing, they unleash more energy than any other known energy source, even thermonuclear bombs.

The energy from colliding positrons and antielectrons "is 10 billion times ... that of high explosive," Edwards explained in his March speech. Moreover, 1 gram of antimatter, about 1/25th of an ounce, would equal "23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy." Thus "positron energy conversion," as he called it, would be a "revolutionary energy source" of interest to those who wage war.

It almost defies belief, the amount of explosive force available in a speck of antimatter -- even a speck that is too small to see. For example: One millionth of a gram of positrons contain as much energy as 37.8 kilograms (83 pounds) of TNT, according to Edwards' March speech. A simple calculation, then, shows that about 50-millionths of a gram could generate a blast equal to the explosion (roughly 4,000 pounds of TNT, according to the FBI) at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Unlike regular nuclear bombs, positron bombs wouldn't eject plumes of radioactive debris. When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma radiation. Thus, in principle, a positron bomb could be a step toward one of the military's dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called "clean" superbomb that could kill large numbers of soldiers without ejecting radioactive contaminants over the countryside.

A copy of Edwards' speech onNIAC's Web site emphasizes this advantage of positron weapons in bright red letters: "No Nuclear Residue."

But talk of "clean" superbombs worries critics. " 'Clean' nuclear weapons are more dangerous than dirty ones because they are more likely to be used," said an e-mail from science historian George Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., author of "Project Orion," a 2002 study on a Cold War-era attempt to design a nuclear spaceship. Still, Dyson adds, antimatter weapons are "a long, long way off."

Why so far off? One reason is that at present, there's no fast way to mass produce large amounts of antimatter from particle accelerators. With present techniques, the price tag for 100-billionths of a gram of antimatter would be $6 billion, according to an estimate by scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and elsewhere, who hope to launch antimatter-fueled spaceships.

Another problem is the terribly unruly behavior of positrons whenever physicists try to corral them into a special container. Inside these containers, known as Penning traps, magnetic fields prevent the antiparticles from contacting the material wall of the container -- lest they annihilate on contact. Unfortunately, because like-charged particles repel each other, the positrons push each other apart and quickly squirt out of the trap.

If positrons can't be stored for long periods, they're as useless to the military as an armored personnel carrier without a gas tank. So Edwards is funding investigations of ways to make positrons last longer in storage.

Edwards' point man in that effort is Gerald Smith, former chairman of physics and Antimatter Project leader at Pennsylvania State University. Smith now operates a small firm, Positronics Research LLC, in Santa Fe, N.M. So far, the Air Force has given Smith and his colleagues $3.7 million for positron research, Smith told The Chronicle in August.

Smith is looking to store positrons in a quasi-stable form called positronium. A positronium "atom" (as physicists dub it) consists of an electron and antielectron, orbiting each other. Normally these two particles would quickly collide and self-annihilate within a fraction of a second -- but by manipulating electrical and magnetic fields in their vicinity, Smith hopes to make positronium atoms last much longer.

Smith's storage effort is the "world's first attempt to store large quantities of positronium atoms in a laboratory experiment," Edwards noted in his March speech. "If successful, this approach will open the door to storing militarily significant quantities of positronium atoms."

Officials at Eglin Air Force Base initially agreed enthusiastically to try to arrange an interview with Edwards. "We're all very excited about this technology," spokesman Rex Swenson at Eglin's Munitions Directorate told The Chronicle in late July. But Swenson backed out in August after he was overruled by higher officials in the Air Force and Pentagon.

Reached by phone in late September, Edwards repeatedly declined to be interviewed. His superiors gave him "strict instructions not to give any interviews personally. I'm sorry about that -- this (antimatter) project is sort of my grandchild. ...

"(But) I agree with them (that) we're just not at the point where we need to be doing any public interviews."

Air Force spokesman Douglas Karas at the Pentagon also declined to comment last week.

In the meantime, the Air Force has been investigating the possibility of making use of a powerful positron-generating accelerator under development at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. One goal: to see if positrons generated by the accelerator can be stored for long periods inside a new type of "antimatter trap" proposed by scientists, including Washington State physicist Kelvin Lynn, head of the school's Center for Materials Research.

A new generation of military explosives is worth developing, and antimatter might fill the bill, Lynn told The Chronicle: "If we spend another $10 billion (using ordinary chemical techniques), we're going to get better high explosives, but the gains are incremental because we're getting near the theoretical limits of chemical energy."

Besides, Lynn is enthusiastic about antimatter because he believes it could propel futuristic space rockets.

"I think," he said, "we need to get off this planet, because I'm afraid we're going to destroy it."
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:24:04 PM EST
Phased plazma rifle in the 40 watt range.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:26:17 PM EST
It reminds me of the matter/antimatter reaction used to propel ships on Star Trek. The future is much closer than you think!
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:31:00 PM EST
Eh, antimatter is so 70s. The cool thing now is Zero-Point Energy. Reportedly, the empty space inside a coffee cup, even without any air at all, has enough energy to boil off all the oceans on the planet.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:33:20 PM EST

Originally Posted By moneyshot:
It reminds me of the matter/antimatter reaction used to propel ships on Star Trek. The future is much closer than you think!



The M/AR just provided the power for the Warp Drive contained within the nacelles, not direct propulsion like a rocket exaust. Even if we manage to get some sort of Matter/Anti-matter reactor built (a LONG time down the road given how hard it's been do "simple" fusion) you still have to do that next step of constructing a device that will warp space-time. Nothing known so far in physics prevents it, there's just no way of doing it right now.

Making shit blow up is a LOT more simple.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:33:30 PM EST
Better get the magnetic bottles charged up...
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:36:27 PM EST
We're all gonna die...
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:40:51 PM EST
So, will these Black Hole Guns* be available at my local gun shop?

*I've patented that, it's moin. Awaiting royalties.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:45:38 PM EST
If this can be done, the anti-matter weapons will come in useful when the next big rock comes hurtling towards the world, or if Cthulhu attacks.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:51:31 PM EST
"But Kep-tan, the matter/anti-matter pods will explode! She's bursting at the seems!"
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:58:36 PM EST
nah... Black Hole guns will be covered by the next ban for sure.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 2:59:42 PM EST
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:06:29 PM EST

Originally Posted By CAMPYBOB:
yeah, yeah yeah.

they promised me, back when i was a kid, that we would all fly to work in personal hovercraft jets.

they lied.

i'm still waiting for my own personal hovercraft jet.




How about the Moller Skycar??? www.21stcentury.co.uk/technology/moller_m400_skycar.asp
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:12:42 PM EST

Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:15:48 PM EST

Originally Posted By Steve_T_M:
If this can be done, the anti-matter weapons will come in useful when the next big rock comes hurtling towards the world, or if Cthulhu attacks.


Cthulhu will rise from the ocean and all will be stricken with insanity!

No measly anti-matter weapon could possible harm him anyway. What were you thinking?
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:17:19 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/4/2004 3:20:25 PM EST by CAMPYBOB]
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:17:26 PM EST
ITS A TRAP
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:18:20 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/4/2004 3:23:49 PM EST by cmjohnson]
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:24:40 PM EST
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:27:27 PM EST

Originally Posted By CAMPYBOB:
Actually, the matter/antimatter reaction is the power source, not the propulsive force. The gamma energy generated is collected, focused, transformed, and collimated by the dilithium crystals, and at that point the resultiing energy is directly useful to the warp field coils, which are inside the engine nacelles and occupy almost all of the nacelle internal volume.

sure...that's easy for you to say...but, they can't even build us one lousy sport ute that gets and honest 75mpg.

honestly, do you really think they can make a fan belt last more than 30,000 light years on a star cruiser?

i don't think so!



HA HA HA...
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:30:27 PM EST
WE NEED TO PREBAN ANTIMATTER WEAPONS. THESE MILITARY WEAPONS DO NOT NEED TO BE IN THE HANDS OF CITIZENS. SOMEONE, PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:35:13 PM EST
We'll be lucky to keep our "kinetic energy" weapons as civilians.

Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:40:36 PM EST
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 3:58:44 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/4/2004 4:00:12 PM EST by scrum]
anti-matter
ZPE
plasma rifles

I am still waiting for the freaking rocket packs they said I would be able to commute to work with by the 1980s.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 4:22:40 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/4/2004 4:23:58 PM EST by Tgrds]

Originally Posted By Airwolf:

In the meantime, the Air Force has been investigating the possibility of making use of a powerful positron-generating accelerator under development at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. One goal: to see if positrons generated by the accelerator can be stored for long periods inside a new type of "antimatter trap" proposed by scientists, including Washington State physicist Kelvin Lynn, head of the school's Center for Materials Research.




Unbelievable,

I just started posting on this forum a day ago, and what do I find, a reference to the place where I work. I will tell yah all something funny that you probably won't read about; every year the Veterinary school across the street has to increase security because them damn hippies from PETA keep trying to break in and set the animals free. However, they are completely oblivious to amount of "Other" related research that actually takes place at the University.

Funny folks them PETA's,

Tgrds

P.S. Our new kinetic energy accelerator kick’s a significant amount of ass.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 4:47:59 PM EST
This is why I pack a new roll of tin foil wherever I go. .......
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 6:29:20 PM EST

Originally Posted By cmjohnson:
Actually, the matter/antimatter reaction is the power source, not the propulsive force.



You are correct. The matter/anitmatter reaction heats water which is converted to steam to drive huge generators to power the electric motors that drive the propellers which power the spacecraft.

So let's review what we learned:
* 0.000001 grams of antimatter = 83 pounds of TNT
* 0.00005 grams could reproduce the power of the OKC bombing
* Positrons cannot be stored effectively and they anihilate the matter of their container
* Scientists think they can invent "positronium" which is "quasi-stable"
* Gerald Smith wants to build "the world's first attempt to store large quantities of positronium atoms"

Oh yeah. If they build that around here, I'll be sure to walk on the other side of the street!

That makes this statement all the more
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 6:42:55 PM EST

Originally Posted By mace:
Eh, antimatter is so 70s. The cool thing now is Zero-Point Energy. Reportedly, the empty space inside a coffee cup, even without any air at all, has enough energy to boil off all the oceans on the planet.



Zero-Point has been debunked. The current theory is superstrings.
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 6:47:45 PM EST

Originally Posted By sharky30:
www.furryconflict.com/tech/technopedia/technology/weapons/exceltorpedo.jpg
www.bravofleet.org/bravofleet/images/wtorpedo-photon.gif



And the winner for 'First Trekkie to post a picture of a Photon Torpedo' is...

Although that's basically what the AF is thinking, in missile form...
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 6:55:27 PM EST

it was the obvious choice for an example of an antimatter weapon


Originally Posted By Dave_A:

Originally Posted By sharky30:
www.furryconflict.com/tech/technopedia/technology/weapons/exceltorpedo.jpg
www.bravofleet.org/bravofleet/images/wtorpedo-photon.gif



And the winner for 'First Trekkie to post a picture of a Photon Torpedo' is...

Although that's basically what the AF is thinking, in missile form...

Link Posted: 10/4/2004 6:57:43 PM EST
[Last Edit: 10/4/2004 6:58:00 PM EST by BUCC_Guy]
6 Billion dollars for 100-billionths of a gram when we need 50-millionths for a big fking boom?


Whose payin for this shit?


- BG


EDIT: Not to mention the "oops" potential
Link Posted: 10/4/2004 6:58:32 PM EST
Think we'll be able to buy it? DD?
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 5:36:49 AM EST

Originally Posted By Fire_for_Effect:

Originally Posted By mace:
Eh, antimatter is so 70s. The cool thing now is Zero-Point Energy. Reportedly, the empty space inside a coffee cup, even without any air at all, has enough energy to boil off all the oceans on the planet.



Zero-Point has been debunked. The current theory is superstrings.



I always liked loop quantum gravity better then superstrings. It just sounds more realistic.
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 5:55:34 AM EST
[Last Edit: 10/5/2004 7:11:58 AM EST by lawsec]
[whatshisnamefromthe"future"]

There is a BIG problem with making antimatter weapons. We are not ready for what will follow.

The subspace disruptions from an antimatter weapon will carry quite some distance. We can only hope that a society like the Vulcans are the ones to detect it. What if it is the Klingons? What if it is the Borg?

Do we want that kind of attention? Hell, this could bring the "galactic UN" in here. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Why, the next thing we know there will be blue-helmeted aliens overseeing our elections and we will have to get their approval to defend ourselves against agressor nations and terrorists on our own planet

Link Posted: 10/5/2004 6:00:31 AM EST

" 'Clean' nuclear weapons are more dangerous than dirty ones because they are more likely to be used," said an e-mail from science historian George Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.,


Link Posted: 10/5/2004 6:17:59 AM EST
Sounds like some powerfull stuff. I'd like to see a dumptruck load of it dropped on the Middle East.
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 12:14:23 PM EST
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 12:19:55 PM EST
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 12:21:57 PM EST
Group buy when the Antimatter Weapon Ban ends?
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 12:44:09 PM EST

The subspace disruptions from an antimatter weapon will carry quite some distance. We can only hope that a society like the Vulcans are the ones to detect it. What if it is the Klingons? What if it is the Borg?


http://www.ericverberne.nl/uk/images/tpol2_small.jpg

I vote for the Vulcans
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 1:17:45 PM EST

Originally Posted By COLE-CARBINE:
Group buy when the Antimatter Weapon Ban ends?hr


Sounds good, I'm in h.gif
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 1:30:35 PM EST

Originally Posted By CAMPYBOB:
yeah, yeah yeah.

they promised me, back when i was a kid, that we would all fly to work in personal hovercraft jets.

they lied.

i'm still waiting for my own personal hovercraft jet.




We must have read the same "Welcome to the Future" books!

Other good ones I remember we would have/do in the year 2000 were…

We would all have a personal nuclear power plant in the home…

Cars would drive themselves at 400mph

We would all work an 8 hour WEEK because robots would do the work…

We would all wear silver clothes…

And we would holiday on the Moon!

THEY LIED!!!!

ANdy
Link Posted: 10/5/2004 1:38:17 PM EST

Originally Posted By ipschoser1:
Sounds like some powerfull stuff. I'd like to see a dumptruck load of it dropped on the Middle East.



Uhh yeah, that would kinda destroy the whole solar system.
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