Sunday, May 31, 2009

She Blinded Me With Science

The Cockcroft Walton at Fermilab. (Courtesy of Fermilab Visual Media Services)

The world premiere of Angels & Demons came with a special series of lectures. Now I haven't seen the movie yet but I was able to attend a lecture at my favorite science place - Fermilab.

The connection between the movie and the physic lab is the use of antimatter in the plot. I don't know who thought of the creating the series of lectures but I find it a brilliant idea to use the marketing of the movie to generate an interest in science.

Besides being conveniently located for me, Fermilab is currently the largest producer of antimatter (oh did you think this stuff didn't exist?). Very small amounts of the stuff is spinning around their rings.

The lecture was given by the lovely Dr. Marcela Carena.

She explained the facts regarding antimatter. As Hollywood typically does it exaggerated the use of antimatter and incorrectly created some situations with it. One big mistake is the amount of antimatter the bad guys steal in the movie. Scientist have never produce an amount anywhere near the amount in the movie plot.

In the movie the antimatter is taken from CERN, which will soon become the world's most powerful particle accelerator (they had a few startup problem so Fermilab is still the leading current active one). Here's a few facts from the CERN site:

Even if CERN used its accelerators only for making antimatter, it could produce no more than about 1 billionth of a gram per year. To make 1 g of antimatter - the amount made by Vetra in the movie - would therefore take about 1 billion years. The total amount of antimatter produced in CERN’s history is less than 10 nanograms - containing only enough energy to power a 60 W light bulb for 4 hours.
Dr. Carena pointed off some very interesting facts about antimatter in her lecture.
  • Antimatter is responsible for the light coming from the sun
  • Antimatter is used in medicine - the PET scan
  • It was first seen (and measured) in 1932 by Carl Anderson in a cloud chamber.
You can watch the Fermilab lecture here.

Here's a web site about the lecture series.

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Joanna Jenkins said...

Very interesting-- In fact, far more interesting then the movie-- What a dog :-(

Bill Lisleman said...

@Joanna J - Of course I find it very interesting and often wonder why more people don't. Like I mentioned, I didn't see the movie yet. I know a number of people didn't care much for the previous one (Da Vinci Code). I thought it was alright.

Qaisar said...

that very nice blog and it has very nice video colleciton i realy enjoy my self on this blog keep it up take care thankssssss

Bill Lisleman said...

@Qaisar - thanks for those nice words. Please stop by again.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Noticed that you also follow JaPRA, and came over to check out your blogs. Anyone who luvs is my kind of people. I really like this blog, too! Will share this post with my son. We just watched A&D, and he's very intrigued about CERN and antimatter.

I'll be back!

Bill Lisleman said...

@FF - well that comment had me searching around for JaPRA. It looked familiar but at first I thought it was a different blog than it turned out to be. So yes I'm a follower of Just a Plane Ride Away, but I must admit I'm not a frequent visitor. - I was thinking I should get another post or two up there.

Very happy to know you are encouraging your son's wonder of science.

3L said...

I can't stop staring at the picture. Its gorgeous.

Bill Lisleman said...

@LLnL - I like it too but I can't claim it. I found it on the Fermi Lab site. It's a real part of the lab but I doubt they light it up like that. I think it used in energizing the particles. The machinery at that place is amazing.

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