Scientists to turn energy into matter

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In a year’s time, with a bit of luck and a lot of high tech, scientists hope to do something that was first thought of 80 years ago and considered impossible at the time: They are going to convert energy into matter.

The idea, first proposed in 1934 by physicists Gregory Breit and John Wheeler, was that very rarely, two photons could collide and produce a photon and a positron (the antimatter version of the electron). According to a report in the Guardian, Oliver Pike, the lead researcher on the project at Imperial College London, said

The Breit-Wheeler process is the simplest way matter can be made from light and one of the purest demonstrations of E=mc2.

The project believes they can achieve this goal by firing electrons at a gold target to produce a beam of high-energy photons. The photons will then be sent into a gold “hohlraum” (that’s German for “empty room”), which is a tiny chamber where they will collide with an incredibly high-energy laser beam. The idea is that so much light will be “squeezed” into such a small volume that something like 100,000 electron-positron pairs will be created which will be detectable and prove the theory. This is, of course, a very complex (and probably expensive) experiment and it's estimated that it could take a year to get it to work.

If that isn’t mind-boggling enough, the Guardian quotes the director of the John Adams Institute at Oxford University, Andrei Seryi, as saying: 

It's breathtaking to think that things we thought are not connected, can in fact be converted to each other: matter and energy, particles and light. Would we be able in the future to convert energy into time and vice versa?

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