"Mixing antimatter and matter usually has predictably violent consequences – the two annihilate one another in a fierce burst of energy.
"But physicists in Geneva have found a new way to make the two combine, at least briefly, into a single substance. This exceptionally unstable stuff, made of protons and antiprotons, is called protonium.
"The feat of 'antichemistry' actually took place back in 2002, but nobody had realised it until now. It happened in an experiment at the CERN particle physics lab, when both antiprotons and positrons – which have the same mass as electrons but an opposite charge – were put into the same magnetic cage. Some of them combined to make antihydrogen, which was the original aim of the experiment.
"Now it seems that the same setup also produced a more peculiar, hybrid kind of matter, according to an analysis of the pattern of particle shrapnel flying out of the experiment."
You know, that's got to be a bittersweet moment for the uber-physicists that ran the experiment. They accidentally violated a fundamental principle of particle physics (Hooray!) but didn't realize it for an entire election cycle (D'oh!). I mean, you expect this kind of retro-discovery from astronomers, but from the atom-smasher set? Get it together, people!
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.