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First Matter-Antimatter Molecule Created

Positrons and electrons still want to destroy each other, but physicists force them into groups

2 min read

20 September 2007—Antimatter permeates the realm of science fiction, from Isaac Asimov’s robot brains to the warp drives of Star Trek ’s Enterprise . Not so in our real universe, where what we see, eat, touch, or smell is made of normal, run-of-the-mill matter. When bits of antimatter do show up, they tend to interact with matter and disappear into a burst of energy.

But two physicists from the University of California at Riverside have pulled off a seemingly impossible feat: creating molecules of equal parts matter and antimatter. These long-sought dipositronium molecules don’t look like normal molecules—they each have two electrons and two of their antimatter counterparts, positrons, that swirl around each other in a quantum mechanical dance.

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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