Have you ever wondered how this world is going to end? Global warming? A massive earthquake? A huge meteor from out of space comes down and wipes us all out? What about a zombie apocalypse? But what if I told you could literally end this world, with the help of a mysterious particle? (cool right? or not-so-cool? You decide). Nevertheless, I think we can both agree that this sounds like some pretty crazy stuff! Now before I give you a tutorial on how to end the world, let’s try to understand how this is even possible in the first place.
For us to successfully carry out this mission, we will need to have a basic understanding of antimatter, which is essentially just the same as matter, except for a key property which is flipped: its electric charge. For every piece of matter that exists, there is an antimatter counterpart. Although matter and antimatter behave in exactly the same way, in the sense that they both experience gravitational forces to other forms of matter, have regular mass and obey Newton’s laws of motion.
Now here’s the fun part, when matter and antimatter come into contact — KABOOM! They annihilate each other and gamma radiation is given off. But before we use it to blow everything up, let’s have a look at how we’ve taken advantage of this effect.
Hospitals use positron-emission technology (PET) for imaging, for example, brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease or stroke patients. A positron is an antiparticle of the electron. When a positron-emission technology scanner is used, a positron-emitting isotope is injected into the patient. Each positron travels just a few millimetres before it comes in contact with an electron within the body and the positron and electron destroy each other. As a result, two gamma photons are produced and sensed by detectors connected to computers. Eventually, an image is formed from the signals from where the positron-emitting nuclei are located within the body.
Positron emission takes place when an unstable nucleus with too many protons changes into a neutron, emitting a positron in the process. Since a…