What do scientists have in common with four-year-olds and people who are stoned, besides social ineptitude and a fondness for sweets? They have all asked the question "Why do we exist?" The only difference is, scientists might have an answer.
Do you remember when we built that big science thing in Illinois, Fermilab, for the scientists? "What is this for?" we asked, and of course the scientists ignored us. Well, here is one thing that it's for: Figuring out why the universe exists, instead of not existing.
In a mathematically perfect universe, we would be less than dead; we would never have existed. According to the basic precepts of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created in the Big Bang and then immediately annihilated each other in a blaze of lethal energy, leaving a big fat goose egg with which to make to make stars, galaxies and us. And yet we exist, and physicists (among others) would dearly like to know why.
So what is the deal? Why are there things, instead of nothing? It may hinge on a kind of particle called a "b-meson," which constantly moves back and forth between its matter state and its antimatter state—but which moves more easily from antimatter to matter than the other way around. If this is true, says Fermilab theorist Joe Lykken, it will be like seeing "the toe of God," which doesn't sound that awesome but is still pretty cool, if you think about it.
"This result may provide an important input for explaining the matter dominance in our universe," Guennadi Borissov, a co-leader of the study from Lancaster University, in England, said in a talk Friday at Fermilab, in Batavia, Ill. Over the weekend, word spread quickly among physicists. Maria Spiropulu of CERN and the California Institute of Technology called the results "very impressive and inexplicable."
People who are stoned are working on a competing theory of existence, based on that awesome scene in Blade Runner where the guy is on the roof? You know? Man. Awesome.