Matter, back in time

Jodi and I were catching up on TV shows tonight; she’s recovering from yet another cold, plus some inexplicable abdominal pain that put her in the ER earlier this week, and I’m catching up on all the rest I lost worrying about her. We were really pleased to see that Tom Hanks was on last night’s “The Daily Show”, and both of us were wondering if he’d talk about CERN.

He didn’t disappoint. Not only did he say “Higgins [sic] boson”, he also shook up Jon Stewart by confirming that CERN does, in fact, make antimatter. Of course, so do accelerators all over the world  . . . and nature itself, in our atmosphere. But all of that is chump change compared to the fictional amount that is at the center of the new movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s “Angels and Daemons”. The amount in Brown’s story is enough to destroy the Vatican. Hilarity ensues [1].

The best part of the interview was when Hanks blew Stewart’s mind by explaining antimatter. “In particle physics, you take small things and you keep smashing them into each other  until you get little bitty  tiny things, and eventually, I guess, the particles pass through a time-space continuum to become mirror images of each other, and that’s antimatter.” [2]

Damn. I didn’t learn that until graduate school. In fact, this was one of the earliest revelations about the nature of antimatter – that you can think of it as matter traveling backward in time. Not only did Hanks demonstrate the absorption of a deep insight into the cosmos, he did it with a confidence and casual flare that I come to expect from a seasoned actor.

That’s it, he’s hired!



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