Essay by folkloreJunior High, 8th gradeB, January 2004

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Antimatter, the "mirror image of matter," was a topic often toyed with in science fiction novels. Star Trek's spaceships are propelled by this revolutionary matter with the ability to turn all its mass into pure energy, and scientists today are even investigating the use of antimatter as real fuel. Also, antimatter, when combined with ordinary matter, annihilates it in an explosion of energy. Antimatter's existence was first predicted in 1930 when Paul Dirac's theory about the motion of electrons in magnetic and electric fields required the existence of another type of particle, an electron with exactly the same mass as a normal electron but a positive charge: the positron; antimatter.

Firstly, where does antimatter originate? Though, as explained, it is a very real thing, it ironically comes from cosmic rays in outer space, the perfect setting for a science fiction story. It is difficult to understand where cosmic rays come from, for they are appearing from many directions, but they were probably thrown into space by the explosions of dying stars, or supernovae.

They were the first high-energy particles ever studied. Did you know that, no matter your location, a few cosmic rays hit you every second? When their speedy, high-energy protons collide with air atoms, part of the smash is recreated as particles and antiparticles, following the famous equation, E=mc2. So, cosmic rays are a natural resource for antimatter, as described in Carl Anderson's 1932 studies of the cosmic ray. Anderson was also the first to discover antimatter when he took its picture in 1931.

Secondly, antimatter is a little-known, but frequently studied, form of matter. Among other things, it is used in Position Emission Tomography scans, or PET scans. By combining electrons and positrons, their antiparticles, at low energies, this can be achieved. In PET, fluid containing...