Physics lab allays Angels & Demons antimatter fear

Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:39pm EST
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By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - The European physics laboratory that reassured us it wouldn't destroy the Earth in a "Big Bang" experiment last year is now telling people not to fret about antimatter.

Physicists at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) are keen to separate fact from fiction in Hollywood's upcoming adaptation of the Dan Brown novel Angels & Demons, in which a secret society tries to annihilate the Vatican with antimatter stolen from the lab on the Swiss-French border.

CERN spokesman James Gillies said that while director Ron Howard "tried to get the science as right as is possible in the film," some aspects of the fictional plot are unavoidably fantastical.

"The basic problem is the concept of antimatter," he said. "You cannot make that much."

In a statement coinciding with a visit of Angels & Demons stars Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer to the research center, CERN said its production of low-energy antiprotons could help solve the mystery of why matter has triumphed over antimatter, and also lead to life-saving technology, such as cancer treatment.

"As Dan Brown correctly points out, when matter and antimatter meet, they annihilate, leaving only energy behind," CERN said. "One of the great mysteries of the universe today is how enough matter has survived to provide the building blocks for stars, planets, and even us."

Matter and antimatter are believed to have been created in equal amounts in the Big Bang that cosmologists say started up the universe 13.7 billion years ago, though today antiparticles are extremely rare.

CANCER SCANS   Continued...

<p>U.S. actor Tom Hanks poses during a photocall to promote the movie "Angels &amp; Demons", premiering May 15, at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin near Geneva February 12, 2009. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud</p>