Do matter and antimatter attract each other?

23 January 2011

Question

Matter and matter attract each other. What about matter and antimatter? They repulse? Also attract?

Answer

We posed this question to Professor Andy Parker from Cambridge University and Jeffrey Hangst from CERN...

Andy - If you just take a positron and an electron, they attract each other because they've got opposite electrical charges. But a much more interesting question is if you make a matter atom and an antimatter atom, do they then attract each other? Because if they were two atoms, they would have a positive pull together from gravity. So an interesting question which I think Jeffrey might like to comment on is whether there's some anti-gravitational force related to antimatter... Jeffrey - It's a very fascinating question and an experimental one that another group here at CERN hopes to answer. The short answer is that nobody knows because physics is fundamentally an experimental science, but people are planning on doing that experiment. Maybe in five to ten years, we'll have an answer. Most people don't think that there's antigravity. In other words, that antimatter and matter repel each other, but there may be some slight correction to the attraction. That's what the current thinking is, that's as far as it goes at any rate.

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