Antimatter in fiction: Spaceships and bombs


By Roger Highfield Antimatter provides the energy source that enables the Starship Enterprise to boldly go where no one has gone before. Intriguingly, there have been serious proposals for antimatter propulsion, based on the huge energy of annihilation. By one scheme, 10 milligrams – the mass of a grain of rice – would be sufficient to send a manned spaceship to Mars (see the film’s website). Antimatter plays a starring role in Dan Brown’s novel Angels and Demons, now a Hollywood film. The plot revolves around the efforts of a secret brotherhood to destroy the Vatican with “a bomb of unstoppable power” based on this mirror-image matter. The leading man, Tom Hanks, recently joked that he would even stick his hand into the CERN particle accelerator to create some antiparticles. But although CERN has been making antimatter for decades, annihilating every single antiparticle ever made would only give off enough energy to light a single light bulb for a few minutes. At that rate it would take 10,
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