• Question: Is matter being created at the present time or being destroyed?? ;D

    Asked by jackietang to Amy, Drew, Julia, Kimberley, Sara on 15 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      That’s a tough question. We know that over a closed system, the total energy remains constant (that’s the first law of thermodynamics). We know that mass is closely related to energy, and that you can convert between them (that’s Einstein’s E = MC squared).

      There are some big things we don’t know about the universe though. One of them is an idea called “dark energy”. Dark energy isn’t something in particular – we know that the things we know about don’t fully explain some things we can see, so we call the gap in our knowledge “dark energy”. Until we know these things we can’t say overall if matter is being created or destroyed overall. At any one time, some energy is turning into mass, and some mass into energy, but we don’t know the balance.

    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Always….. have to balance those energy and mass balances!

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      I fdon’t know much about this…physics was never my strong point – but I have been told that its neither. Its more a process of things changing into other things – they neither appear nor disappear!

    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      Both!! Matter is being both created and destroyed at the present time. Its a constant process. How is this happening? Well in addition to matter there is something in the universe that is very cool – its called antimatter! Antimatter is just like matter but with opposite charge. Every particle has an antimatter counterpart.There are anti-electrons, called positrons, antiprotons, antineutrinos, antiquarks etc. You can even make antimatter atoms – a atom of antihelium was just recently made that was kept stable for 10 minutes! Now, you may be wondering why I am surprised that a antimatter atom would be stable if antimatter and matter are the same (except for charge) and matter atoms are stable. Well, matter and antimatter are both stable separately, but together they annihilate to make pure energy!! We are lucky to live in a universe where matter waaaaaaay outnumbers antimatter, so that we can still be here. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to meet my anti-self! Think of that handshake!! Nonetheless there is still some antimatter in the universe. Particularly in cosmic rays. So there is a lot of antimatter positrons out there which annihilate with electrons for example, and both are destroyed in the process. However, the opposite process also occurs – energy can make matter/antimatter pairs! Typically they just annihilate right away but sometimes they escape and go do other things. So, the universe is in a constant state of creation and destruction. Beautiful isn’t it?