Physicists are trying to see if the particle’s matter and antimatter versions are the same
K. Freund/GERDA collaboration
Galaxies, stars, planets and life, all are formed from one essential substance: matter.
But the abundance of matter is one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of physics. The Big Bang, 13.8 billion years ago, spawned equal amounts of matter and its bizarro twin, antimatter. Matter and antimatter partners annihilate when they meet, so an even stephen universe would have ended up full of energy — and nothing else. Somehow, the balance tipped toward matter in the early universe.
A beguiling subatomic particle called a neutrino may reveal how that happened. If neutrinos are their own antiparticles — meaning that the neutrino’s matter and antimatter versions are the same thing — the lightweight particle might point to an explanation for the universe’s glut of matter.
So scientists are hustling to find evidence of a hypothetical kind of nuclear decay that can occur only if neutrinos and antineutrinos are one and the same. Four experiments have