Bizarro Physics

All sorts of oddities emerge from equations that we have developed to describe reality.  What is surprising is that rather than being simply mathematical artifacts, they actually show up in our physical world.

Perhaps the first such bizarro (see DC Comics) entity was antimatter; matter with an opposite charge and spin.  A mathematical solution to Paul Dirac’s relativistic version of Schrödinger’s equation (it makes my head hurt just looking at it), antimatter was discovered 4 years after Dirac predicted it.

One of last year’s surprises was the negative frequencies that are solutions to Maxwell’s equations and have been shown to reveal themselves in components of light.

And, earlier this month, German physicists announced the ability to create a temperature below absolute zero.

So when we were told in physics class to throw out those “negative” solutions to equations because they were in the imaginary domain, and therefore had no basis in reality…uh, not so fast.

What I find interesting about these discoveries is the implications for the bigger picture.  If our reality were what most of us think it is – 3 dimensions of space, with matter and energy following the rules set forth by the “real” solutions to the equations of physics – one might say that reality trumps the math; that solutions to equations only make sense in the context of describing reality.

However, it appears to be the other way around – math trumps reality.  Solutions to equations previously thought to be in the “imaginary domain” are now being shown to manifest in our reality.

This is one more category of evidence that underlying our apparent reality are data and rules.  The data and rules don’t manifest from the reality; they create the reality.

Bizarro185 antimatter185

Wacky Ideas from my Past – #3 The Anti-Nitrogen Cruiser

In the standard model of particle physics, every particle has an antiparticle, a particle which has opposite properties, such as charge (e.g. a positron is the antiparticle of the electron).  Currently, it takes a fairly high energy particle accelerator to generate antiparticles artificially and actual antimolecules were created only recently (at CERN in the 1990s).  When an particle encounters its antiparticle, they annihilate each other and release a burst of energy equivalent to e=mc^^2.  As this is the most efficient conversion of fuel possible, it was a source of fascination for endless science fiction writers, especially with respect to the anti-matter drive, which is based on the idea of generating energy via the annihilation of matter and antimatter.

My idea, however, was sort of the reverse idea – that once somebody figured out a good energy source and a reverse reaction that would produce a steady stream of matter and antimatter, there was a great opportunity for a clean and efficient engine for a flying car.  It starts with the generator of nitrogen and antinitrogen.  Since air is 78% nitrogen, if you shoot your stream of antinitrogen out the front of the vehicle, it will annihilate the nitrogen in the air, creating a vacuum that sucks the car into it, propelling the car forward.  At the same time, the other byproduct of the reaction, nitrogen, can be shot out of the back of the car creating additional propulsion in the same direction.  Since the same amount of nitrogen would be created as destroyed, there would be no harm to the environment (ignoring for the moment all of the high energy gamma rays emanating from around the car).  Through a network of plumbing, the stream of antinitrogen could be squirted out of the bottom of the car (for lift), top of the car (descent), sides of the car (parallel parking), simultaneously from a front bumper to the side and the opposite rear to the other side (banking), and any other kind of maneuver that you could desire.  The possibilities would be endless.

Limitless fuel, high efficiency, ultimate maneuverability, and eco-friendly (again, except for the gamma rays).

So where are we in relation to this technology?  CERN has their antiproton decelerator, perhaps the closest system to trapping antiprotons for study.   But it is still a few hundred meters in diameter, barely controls enough antiprotons to be useful, and only generates one kind of antiparticle.  We area a long way from the Anti-Nitrogen Cruiser.  I predict seeing one in the showrooms around…


Jetsons car