Francisco Chronicle Front Page on Antimatter Weapons
I live in the San Francisco Bay area, I read the San Francisco Chronicle,
the largest circulation newspaper in the area. I was amazed a while back to find the below article on antimatter weapons on the front
page. From my research, I know that the US military has developed
all kinds of bizarre hi-tech weapons that you might find difficult to believe
even exist. This article gives detailed information on antimatter weapons.
the antimatter weapons program was originally touted publicly, after the Chronicle started investigating
the program to develop these weapons, a gag order was issued.
To make it even more interesting, though this article made the front page
on the Chronicle, a Google News search (use "antimatter
weapons") revealed that only one small paper in Mississippi also
published the article. Not a single other paper picked up this important
learn more about these antimatter weapons and other highly unusual weapons, read the well documented summary at this link, especially
the section on Non-lethal Weapons. It's not pleasant information, but if you
are like me, I'd rather know what's happening. Please help to expose this
excessive secrecy by spreading the news. And let us remember, too, to
examine those places where we are keeping disempowering secrets within
ourselves. Thanks for caring and you have a good day.
Fred Burks for WantToKnow.info
Air Force pursuing antimatter weapons
touted publicly, then came official gag order
U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways
to use a radical power source -- antimatter, the eerie "mirror"
of ordinary matter -- in future weapons.
most powerful potential energy source presently thought to be available to
humanity, antimatter is a term normally heard in science-fiction films and TV
shows, whose heroes fly "antimatter-powered spaceships" and do
battle with "antimatter guns."
antimatter itself isn't fiction; it actually exists and has been intensively
studied by physicists since the 1930s. In a sense, matter and antimatter are
the yin and yang of reality: Every type of subatomic particle has its
antimatter counterpart. But when matter and antimatter collide, they
annihilate each other in an immense burst of energy.
the Cold War, the Air Force funded numerous scientific studies of the basic
physics of antimatter. With the knowledge gained, some Air Force insiders
are beginning to think seriously about potential military uses -- for example,
antimatter bombs small enough to hold in one's hand, and antimatter engines
for 24/7 surveillance aircraft.
cataclysmic possible uses include a new generation of super weapons -- either
pure antimatter bombs or antimatter-triggered nuclear weapons; the former
wouldn't emit radioactive fallout. Another possibility is antimatter- powered
"electromagnetic pulse" weapons that could fry an enemy's electric
power grid and communications networks, leaving him literally in the dark and
unable to operate his society and armed forces.
an initial inquiry from The Chronicle this summer, the Air Force forbade
its employees from publicly discussing the antimatter research program.
Still, details on the program appear in numerous Air Force documents distributed
over the Internet prior to the ban.
include an outline of a March 2004 speech by an Air Force official who, in
effect, spilled the beans about the Air Force's high hopes for antimatter
weapons. On March 24, Kenneth Edwards, director of the "revolutionary
munitions" team at the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base in
Florida was keynote speaker at the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts
(NIAC) conference in Arlington, Va.
that talk, Edwards discussed the potential uses of a type of antimatter
have known about positrons or "antielectrons" since the early
1930s, when Caltech scientist Carl Anderson discovered a positron flying
through a detector in his laboratory. That discovery, and the later discovery
of "antiprotons" by Berkeley scientists in the 1950s, upheld a
1920s theory of antimatter proposed by physicist Paul Dirac.
1929, Dirac suggested that the building blocks of atoms -- electrons
(negatively charged particles) and protons (positively charged particles) --
have antimatter counterparts: antielectrons and antiprotons. One fundamental
difference between matter and antimatter is that their subatomic building
blocks carry opposite electric charges. Thus, while an ordinary electron is
negatively charged, an antielectron is positively charged (hence the term
positrons, which means "positive electrons"); and while an ordinary
proton is positively charged, an antiproton is negative.
real excitement, though, is this: If electrons or protons collide with their
antimatter counterparts, they annihilate each other. In so doing, they
unleash more energy than any other known energy source, even thermonuclear
energy from colliding positrons and antielectrons "is 10 billion times
... that of high explosive," Edwards explained in his March speech.
Moreover, 1 gram of antimatter, about 1/25th of an ounce, would equal
"23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy." Thus "positron energy
conversion," as he called it, would be a "revolutionary energy
source" of interest to those who wage war.
almost defies belief, the amount of explosive force available in a speck
of antimatter -- even a speck that is too small to see. For example: One
millionth of a gram of positrons contain as much energy as 37.8 kilograms
(83 pounds) of TNT, according to Edwards' March speech. A simple calculation,
then, shows that about 50-millionths of a gram could generate a blast equal
to the explosion (roughly 4,000 pounds of TNT, according to the FBI) at
the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
regular nuclear bombs, positron bombs wouldn't eject plumes of radioactive
debris. When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the
primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma
radiation. Thus, in principle, a positron bomb could be a step toward one of
the military's dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called "clean"
superbomb that could kill large numbers of soldiers without ejecting
radioactive contaminants over the countryside.
copy of Edwards' speech onNIAC's Web site emphasizes this advantage of
positron weapons in bright red letters: "No Nuclear Residue."
talk of "clean" superbombs worries critics. " 'Clean' nuclear
weapons are more dangerous than dirty ones because they are more likely to be
used," said an e-mail from science historian George Dyson of the
Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., author of "Project
Orion," a 2002 study on a Cold War-era attempt to design a nuclear
spaceship. Still, Dyson adds, antimatter weapons are "a long, long way
so far off? One reason is that at present, there's no fast way to mass
produce large amounts of antimatter from particle accelerators. With present
techniques, the price tag for 100-billionths of a gram of antimatter would be
$6 billion, according to an estimate by scientists at NASA's Marshall Space
Flight Center and elsewhere, who hope to launch antimatter-fueled spaceships.
problem is the terribly unruly behavior of positrons whenever physicists try
to corral them into a special container. Inside these containers, known as
Penning traps, magnetic fields prevent the antiparticles from contacting the
material wall of the container -- lest they annihilate on contact.
Unfortunately, because like-charged particles repel each other, the positrons
push each other apart and quickly squirt out of the trap.
positrons can't be stored for long periods, they're as useless to the
military as an armored personnel carrier without a gas tank. So Edwards is
funding investigations of ways to make positrons last longer in storage.
point man in that effort is Gerald Smith, former chairman of physics and Antimatter
Project leader at Pennsylvania State University. Smith now operates a small
firm, Positronics Research LLC, in Santa Fe, N.M. So far, the Air Force has
given Smith and his colleagues $3.7 million for positron research, Smith told
The Chronicle in August.
is looking to store positrons in a quasi-stable form called positronium. A
positronium "atom" (as physicists dub it) consists of an electron
and antielectron, orbiting each other. Normally these two particles would
quickly collide and self-annihilate within a fraction of a second -- but by
manipulating electrical and magnetic fields in their vicinity, Smith hopes to
make positronium atoms last much longer.
storage effort is the "world's first attempt to store large quantities
of positronium atoms in a laboratory experiment," Edwards noted in his
March speech. "If successful, this approach will open the door to
storing militarily significant quantities of positronium atoms."
at Eglin Air Force Base initially agreed enthusiastically to try to arrange
an interview with Edwards. "We're all very excited about this technology,"
spokesman Rex Swenson at Eglin's Munitions Directorate told The Chronicle
in late July. But Swenson backed out in August after he was overruled by
higher officials in the Air Force and Pentagon.
by phone in late September, Edwards repeatedly declined to be interviewed.
His superiors gave him "strict instructions not to give any interviews
personally. I'm sorry about that -- this (antimatter) project is sort of
my grandchild. ...
I agree with them (that) we're just not at the point where we need to be
doing any public interviews."
Force spokesman Douglas Karas at the Pentagon also declined to comment last
the meantime, the Air Force has been investigating the possibility of making
use of a powerful positron-generating accelerator under development at
Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. One goal: to see if positrons
generated by the accelerator can be stored for long periods inside a new type
of "antimatter trap" proposed by scientists, including Washington
State physicist Kelvin Lynn, head of the school's Center for Materials
new generation of military explosives is worth developing, and antimatter
might fill the bill, Lynn told The Chronicle: "If we spend another $10
billion (using ordinary chemical techniques), we're going to get better high
explosives, but the gains are incremental because we're getting near the
theoretical limits of chemical energy."
Lynn is enthusiastic about antimatter because he believes it could propel
futuristic space rockets.
think," he said, "we need to get off this planet, because I'm
afraid we're going to destroy it."
E-mail Keay Davidson at [email protected].
Note: You can find the original article on antimatter weapons at this link
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