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CERN scientists capture antimatter

Scientists at CERN in Switzerland, birthplace of the World Wide Web and home to the Large Hadron Collider, have successfully trapped antimatter atoms for the first time - albeit very, very briefly.

According to a BBC report on the breakthrough, 38 individual atoms of antihydrogen were captured and held for a fraction of a second each before being annihilated as they contacted regular matter.

Unfortunately, rather than using the technology to form the basis of the world's first antimatter-powered warp drive and take mankind to the stars, the scientists behind the feat will be using the technology to investigate the mystery of why there doesn't seem to be equal amounts of antimatter and regular matter around.

Finding the hydrogen atoms wasn't exactly easy: captured in the magnetic fields generated by the machine which held the 38 antihydrogen atoms were an additional 10 million antiprotons and a further 700 million positrons - and each of the antihydrogen atoms lasted a mere two-tenths of a second before bumping into an atom of regular matter and disappearing in a flash.

The success of the experiment is vindication for Professor Gerald Gabrielse, leader of a team at Harvard University that first produced antihydrogen and the originator of the 'magnetic bottle' idea for preventing the antimatter from immediately annihilating upon contact with regular matter.

So far, despite the expectations of the tabloid press to the contrary, none of CERN's amazingly improbably sounding experiments have resulted in the destruction of the universe. Perhaps next time.