The Hunt for Ancient Antimatter

November 3, 2008

Antimatter’s great attraction from a propulsion standpoint is the ability to convert 100 percent of its mass into energy, a reaction impossible with fission or fusion methods. The trick, of course, is to find enough antimatter to use. We can produce it in particle accelerators but only in amounts that are vanishingly small. There is […]

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The Interstellar Conundrum Reconsidered

August 20, 2008

Just how hard would it be to build a true interstellar craft? I’m not talking about a spacecraft that might, in tens of thousands of years, drift past a star by happenstance, but about a true, dedicated interstellar mission. Those of you who’ve been following my bet with Tibor Pacher on Long Bets (now active, […]

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Black Holes May Fuel Antimatter Cloud

January 24, 2008

Those gamma rays coming out of galactic center, flagging the presence of an antimatter cloud of enormous extent, have spawned few explanations more exotic than the one we consider today: Black holes. Primordial black holes, in fact, produced in their trillions at the time of the Big Bang and left evaporating through so-called ‘Hawking radiation’ […]

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An Antimatter Cloud Around Galactic Center

January 11, 2008

Although I had planned to push straight on to look at instrumentation for a true interstellar mission (using Mike Gruntman’s landmark paper on the topic), I want to revise that schedule because of the recently announced antimatter news. We’ll return to the instrumentation issue on Monday, including the tricky question of how a probe designed […]

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Collecting Natural Antimatter

November 8, 2007

Robert Forward used to talk about antimatter factories in space, installations that would draw their power from the Sun. He would point out that at a distance of 1 AU, our star delivers a gigawatt of energy for each square kilometer of collector. And being Robert Forward, he thought big: Build a collector array one […]

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Finding Antimatter in the Solar System

November 7, 2007

James Bickford’s antimatter work for NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts, a Phase II study completed just as NIAC was announcing its closure, prompted a number of comments from readers when I opened discussion of it on Monday. And I can see why. We’re used to thinking of antimatter production as an extraordinarily expensive process happening […]

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Antimatter For Deep Space Propulsion

November 5, 2007

Great ideas fan out in unexpected directions, which is why James Bickford now looks at antimatter in a new light. Bickford (Draper Laboratory, Cambridge MA) realized that an adaptation of Robert Bussard’s interstellar ramscoop might have its uses in collecting antimatter. The concept grew out of the realization that antimatter sources were available not only […]

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Nudging Antimatter Toward Practicality

August 8, 2007

Antimatter would seem to be an ideal propulsion candidate for starships. After all, the annihilation of matter and antimatter is mind-bogglingly efficient, releasing energies that fission or fusion engines could not hope to achieve. A single gram of antimatter meeting a gram of ordinary matter would release the energy of a 20-kiloton bomb. And talk […]

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A Practical Use for Antimatter

March 17, 2007

If we need a huge particle accelerator to produce antimatter and use it only for exotic experiments, how are we ever going to ramp up production to the point where it becomes practical as a propulsion system? One answer may be that as we study the minute amounts of antimatter available for study today, we […]

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Hawking: The Need for an Interstellar Mission

November 30, 2006

About to receive the Royal Society’s Copley Medal, Britain’s highest scientific award, Stephen Hawking told a BBC radio audience that if the human race were to survive, it would be necessary to go to another star. Here’s a quote from a story on this in the Daily Mail: “The long-term survival of the human race […]

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