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Could your anti-self exist? Discovering Antimatter.

Have you ever wondered what your anti-self would be like? If you have ever thought about it, you probably imagined someone that looks exactly like you but is the opposite to you in every other way, like Spock's evil twin in Star Trek, or Phoebe’s twin sister (Ursula) in Friends. Or maybe, you imagined someone that not only acts differently to you but also looks very different, like Trump and Obama. But what you probably never imagined is an anti-self that looks like you, behaves like you and does everything exactly as you do. In actual fact, that sounds more like a clone than an anti-self. How could someone identical to you be considered your anti-self? In what universe could that happen? The answer is simple: you would find your anti-self in an anti-universe.

Captain Spock and his anti-self, his evil twin.
Captain Spock and his anti-self, his evil twin.

We can define an anti-universe as being made of the anti-everything of our Universe. In order to figure out what exactly this opposite to our world would be, we need to start by understanding our world at its very tiniest level. Our Universe is made of atoms, which are formed from sub-atomic particles such as electrons, protons and neutrons (the last two are made of even smaller particles!). And all these particles together create the matter that we see, touch and interact with. Each type of particle has unique characteristics (mass, electrical charge, etc.) that make it indistinguishable from others of its kind and different to all others. Therefore, the anti-world would be made up of anti-particles that together would form anti-matter. These anti-particles would have the opposite characteristics to their corresponding counterpart. For example, as the electron has a negative electric charge, the anti-electron would have a positive charge but with the exact same value. The same idea would apply to all the characteristics of all the particles with the exception of mass since it has no opposite. Amazingly, the result of all particles being the opposite is a universe which behaves in exactly the same way.

Antimatter is not a hypothetical concept; the existence of anti-electrons was first predicted by the physicist Paul Dyrac in 1928. A few years later, in 1932, Carl D. Anderson conducted an experiment that showed, for the very first time, the trail of an anti-electron: he named it a Positron. Physicists agreed that the electron couldn’t be the only particle with a counterpart, a belief that has been proved to be true through many years and experiments.

Antimatter can only be observed during a very brief period of time because when a particle and its anti-particle meet, they mutually annihilate. The easiest way to detect antimatter is actually by the huge amount of energy that this annihilation releases. This effect has raised the possibility of using antimatter as a source of energy or even to create a very powerful bomb. However, this is highly unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future because antimatter is very expensive to create and even more difficult to store, given that as soon as it comes into contact with matter, both are annihilated.

Small amounts of antimatter are constantly created in the universe, but due to the current superiority of matter, antimatter is almost immediately annihilated. However, this wasn’t always the case; matter and antimatter were created at the same time, at the very beginning of the Universe, the Big Bang. Initially, the exact same amount of matter and antimatter was created, but not even one second after the Big Bang this symmetry was broken and particles outnumbered anti-particles, allowing our Universe to exist. If this symmetry hadn’t been broken, all matter and antimatter would have been annihilated and our universe, our planet, our world and ourselves would not exist. We still don’t know why this happened, which leaves open the door to the possibility of the existence of other universes made of antimatter. It is even possible that there are anti-galaxies in our own Universe, but for as long as they don’t come into contact with matter, we don’t have the means to detect them yet.

Therefore, in the very unlikely case that all events in an anti-universe had developed exactly like in our Universe, each one of us could have an anti-self, living in our anti-home, with our anti-family and anti-friends. However, even if that were true, we would never be able to meet them since at the moment of contact, everything would instantly disappear.

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