back to article Has CERN made the VATICAN ANTIMATTER BOMB for real?*

So - Dan Brown's turgid blockbuster Angels and Demons, in which a nefarious papal official nicks a vial of antimatter from CERN as part of a complicated scheme to become Pope by menacing the Vatican with explosive destruction. Twaddle? Or actually a perfectly feasible plan ripped from today's headlines, style of thing? …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Good Video

    I'd like to throw up the following video from UC Berkeley and their fantastic video repository for anyone else interested in this topic. The video, Angels & Demons The Science Revealed is really quite informative - especially about the energy needed.

    Prepare for antimatter bananas.

  2. Anonymous Coward 3
    Thumb Up


    "easily capable of making a global thermonuclear war look like angry cockroaches lighting their farts at each other."

    You have just made my Friday!

    What do you mean it's only Thursday? Sulking off to the pub...

  3. Wize

    Wouldn't it be easier... smuggle in one of those little black holes?

  4. Chris Miller

    Sod the antimatter bomb

    I want my private Lockheed X-33 space plane!

    What do you mean, 'Angels & Demons' wasn't a documentary?

  5. Sargs

    Dan Brown: CERN Recruitment Consultant?

    I applied for a position at CERN recently and was amused and distubed to find that in amongst the billions of questions on the on-line form was something like "Where did you hear about us?" with multiple choice options.

    Two of the options were "Angels and Demons - Film" and "Angels and Demons - Book".

    I didn't pick either of those options but I still didn't get the job.

  6. Anonymous John


    I expect Homeland Security is already planning a scanner to screen airline passengers for anti-matter.

  7. hplasm



  8. Popup

    Maybe not antimatter, but the CERN boffins do have a gun pointed at Rome!

    (Or rather Gran Sasso, but it's close enough for government work.)

    And they fire neutrinos, that rarely interact with much - but that shouldn't stop an enterprising journalist from making up some neat headlines....

  9. Herbert Fruchtl

    Slight mistake

    You forgot a factor of 2. Every anti-hydrogen atom will also turn one normal proton (and electron) into energy. So you would get 22, not 11, billionths of a joule. Still won't heat the coffee, but I'm feeling pedantic today.

  10. Disco-Legend-Zeke



    38 atoms of nega hydrogen would "liberate approximately 11 billionths of a single measly joule. "

    But the atoms of normal matter involved would also liberate another 11 nanojoules.

    Papal plotting priests please ponder.

    1. Lewis Page 1 (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Minor...

      Chaps -

      The fact that normal matter would also be involved was included in the calc. Click on the Wolfram alpha link in the article if you don't believe me.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        This is all very interesting but...

        I've just noticed the "1" at the end of Lewis' account name (just goes to show how observant I am that I've only just noticed.) Does this mean there's more than one of you? Are you the first cloned human? Or are you merely planning to clone yourself and are planning ahead for the eventuality? If you have been cloned, just how many Lewises are there? Also, what's the plural of Lewis? Lewii? And the collective noun?

        These are much more important questions!

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Collective noun for Lewises

          A puissance of Lewises surely?

          1. Campbeltonian

            Re: Collective noun for Lewises

            No, a Lewis Book.

            Hopefully there are female versions. It would make Lewis Page 3 a bit more pleasant.

            1. Tom 13

              Not necessarily.

              I'm thinking the hovering nun with a ruler routine from Blues Brothers. <<shudder>>

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Probably somebody just nicked "Lewis Page" before Lewis Page registered.

        3. Drat

          Lets hope...

          Lewis Page 1 doesn't meet Lewis Page -1, I don't know the mass of a Lewis Page but I bet it is enough to cause a boom..

        4. Anonymous Coward 3

          Re: This is all very interesting but...

          Perhaps it is the famed anti-Lewis?

        5. thecakeis(not)alie

          Maybe he has multiple accounts?

          One for this boat, one for that boat...

          ...and one for the LOHAN production facility he's secretly constructing in the side of a volcano with Lester...

    2. Code Monkey

      @Papal plotting priests please ponder


  11. Lottie

    Good article

    making a global thermonuclear war look like angry cockroaches lighting their farts at each other.

    Was possibly the best line I have read in a while :-)

    Shame we can't get the quantities, but DAMN!! Science is cool!

  12. Anonymous Coward


    Just 99 years since Rutherford proposed his model of the atom. And only 44 years after that that the first fission bomb went off. So I expect anti-matter powered backpacks* and/or an international anti-matter weapons crisis by 2045.

    Then they'll be looking back and saying: that Dan Brown, sage of the future! :)

    *or at least a teasmade

  13. andy gibson

    Angels and Demons

    I was more disappointed with the lack of the super fast SCRAM jet that Langdon used to travel to Europe. The film just went even more downhill from there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Come on... was utterly saved by the not-at-all-Father-Tedesque ending of a parachuting pope.

      1. Annihilator

        @ Mike

        Not that I'd be watching that abortion of a film very often, but the Father Ted reference has made it worthwhile :-)

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Then he was beaten to it

      See the first book of the Brentford Trilogy by Robert Rankin

      If you find yourself at the Flying Swan, have a pint of Large in memory of Pooley and Omally

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      @Carl Zetie

      <Michael Caine>

      No, no, no. You're only supposed to blow the choirboys off.

      </Michael Caine>

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I tought, it is the other way around.

    3. Helena Handcart

      To make an antipope at CERN...'d need to utilise the transperambulation of pseudocosmic antimatter; given enough flux, of course. Or something.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        According to the Rev Dr Ian Paisley,

        Pope = Antichrist

        Let's hope the two never collide!

  15. The Original Ash

    For comparison

    You mention that 1/3g of antimatter reacting with matter would release the equivalent of a 15KTon of TNT explosion, the same as Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima. Total fissile material on that device was 65Kg.

    For comparison, only 1.38% of the fissile material achieved fission, making it approx 900g.

    So, it's roughly 2700x more energetic a reaction than fission!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feeling pedantic...

    I'm feeling rather pedantic although my pedancy (if that's a word) could be void. The "just a degree above absolute zero" comment would be disastrous when dealing with Kelvin but as you didn't actually mention the units I can't point out that the Kelvin scale isn't measured in degrees. Wow, I'm only usually this bad on a Monday morning...

    1. markfiend

      pedancy (if that's a word)

      I think the word you're looking for is pedantry.

      And now I'm off for a lie-down as my head has exploded from the irony of my own meta-pedantry.

    2. Rattus Rattus

      It could easily mean

      a degree (centigrade) above absolute zero (Kelvin). That still means 1 Kelvin. So nyah!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Additional pedantry

      Just because he mentioned absolute zero doesn't mean that the numbers he quotes are in Kelvin. It's perfectly correct to refer to one degree [Celsius] above absolute zero, which would be about -272.15 degrees. Remember, he didn't say "above zero", he said "above absolute zero".

      AC because I'm disappointed with myself for pointing this out.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge


        Bah! The real scientists are still arguing about the exact temperature of absolute temperature and what weird (i.e. interesting) things might happen at that temperature.

        Measuring something at that temperature would imply warming it up and it gets steadily more messy from there...

  17. ravenviz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Small moves Ellie...

    This is great news, well we have to start somewhere. We used to have water wheels and pump houses, now we have nano-machines that can do the same thing (for different purposes obviusly). It's only a matter of time.

    Boot: on Radio 4 last night they said they had contained the antimatter for 6 seconds, this morning they say one-sixth of a second, I presume the latter to be true. They even illustrated by shortening "one of [their] beeps"!

    1. Chemist


      "This is great news.."

      Except for the horrendous amount of energy involved to make it - rather more than 11e-9 J I expect

  18. 0765794e08


    Aw come on...

    ... Dan Brown's come a long way since Susan Fletcher "almost fell off her chair with excitement" in Digital Fortress.

    1. Annihilator
      Thumb Up

      How else?

      Everyone would almost fall off their chair with excitement if they saw the first working example of a rotating cipher where you don't know you've decoded it or not... Fortunately the password was easy to figure out, being larger than 2, yet smaller than 4...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ah, Digital Fortress...

      Now *that* was a high-quality piece of IT fiction.

    3. Florence

      Has he?

      Although I guess it would be hard to write something as bad as Digital Fortress.

      It only convinced me to not read any other book by Dan Brown. That book is an insult to its readers' intelligence. How many pages again for those geniuses with an IQ >170 to solve that riddle... Clues: Elements.. Nagazaki.. Hiroshima... oooh must be something to do with SOCIOLOGY!

      If only that had been redeemed by being well written, or structured, or by having interesting and/or plausible characters, or by being accurate about encryption, networks and technology. Err. Nope, I can't tick any of those boxes either.

      There. Years after reading that book I'm still raging about it...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Re : Florence

        "There. Years after reading that book I'm still raging about it..."

        You too?

        I shredded my copy a page at a time. I felt much better after that.

        1. Stoneshop

          From a friend with access to the appropriate gear

          "You don't burn books. So we took it out the back and shot it"

          This was about a book by the founder of the cult of fictionology, but the same sentiment applies.

          (I myself have treated that pile of dross with an angle grinder and an alligator saw. Unsurprisingly, he book lost)

  19. Bampliano
    Thumb Up

    Well ...

    That cockroaches line acctually made me LOL in the middle of the office.

    Much luv reg!

  20. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    For those who prefer traditional units

    38 atoms of anti-hydrogen would give an explosion equivalent to 2.7 attotons of TNT.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      2.7 attotonnes of TNT, but...

      how many Wales' would that devastate?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "how many Wales' would that devastate?"

        Rather less than 1

      2. lglethal Silver badge


        And would anyone notice?

      3. CaptainHook

        "how many Wales' would that devastate?"

        Depends on how close the device is to the wedding party.

      4. Wommit
        Thumb Up

        Re : AC

        27 quids worth of civic improvements.

  21. Matthew 17

    I do hope Ultrahypercold is an actual word

    The world is a better place for it.

  22. Steven Jones

    Misleading R4 BBC coverage

    I got seriously annoyed by the sloppy coverage of this by BBC R4 news last night, partly repeated on the Roday programme this morining.

    Crime number one - repeated on the Today programme. Stating that antimatter is the opposite of matter (whatever that would be). It's not - if it was it would have odd properties like negative mass. Instead it's material made from a bunch of sub-atomic particles that have the reverse electric charge (like the electron/positron particle/antiparticle pair). Some neutral particles, like anit-neutrons are made up of antigluons which carry this property (and some are their own antiparticles).

    Crime number two - stating this was the first time antimatter had been created. It's not - antiparticles with mass count as matter. Instead, these were the first captured antiatoms.

    Crime number three - stating that when matter and antimatter encounter one another they produce nothing. Wrong. They produce a lot of energy in the form of photons. Indeed if if didn't do that, then there wouldn't be much of a story to be made about a matter/antimatter bomb.

    This might seem immaterial, but it's not - it's fundamental. Shame on you BBC. Puns fully intended.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      "Instead it's material made from a bunch of sub-atomic particles that have the reverse electric charge (like the electron/positron particle/antiparticle pair)"

      More correctly, opposite quantum numbers.

      You need inverse spin, inverse electric charge (+/-), inverse color charge (blue/antiblue), inverse baryon number, inverse hypercharge. Did I forget anything?

      1. Tom 13

        Only to reverse

        the polarity of neutron flow. That things gonna blow!

      2. Steven Jones

        Ok - it's been a while...

        I'm not sure all those quantum properties apply to all sub-atomic particles, but fair enough. It's been nearly 35 years since I did anything like quantum chromodynamics, and I'm not sure it stuck then. My memory is failing, but not so badly as to spot sloppy reporting by the BBC.

        Heaven knows what Fox News makes of it. Probably reported as a new terrorist threat.

  23. tanstaafl28

    CERN and antimatter.

    Has the LHC ended the world yet?

    We're talking such small amounts that it's laughable.

  24. Red Bren

    Who's the funny looking old bloke in the picture?

    That's not Simon Pegg?!!

  25. Graham Marsden
    Black Helicopters

    "have publicly speculated..."

    "...about planting an antimatter bomb in a government funding office"

    Wow! It's a good job they didn't tweet about it!!

  26. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Odd they went with magnetic confinment

    These techniques (keeping atoms cool (IE slow moving) and pushing them about seem to a key bit of quantum computer research.

    AFAIK they tend to use lasers to move neutral atoms around.

    Now anti-matter quantum computer *would* be impressive.

    Not very compact but *any* attempt to hack it would probably shut it down with a 100m crater.

    Now that's what I call *effective* security.

  27. FrancisKing

    Being even more pedantic

    " in fact it would take 300 billion years by his estimates."

    Before the Haber process was invented, producing ammonia in industrial quantities was very difficult. To fuse hydrogen and nitrogen required a lot of heat and pressure.After the Haber process, using iron as a catalyst, it was all much easier.

    What happens when they figure out what makes antimatter tick? Do we get an anti-Haber process?

  28. Apocalypse Later

    And in the canteen kitchen...

    ...the cooks free up an unspecified quantity of counterspace.

  29. sinisterpictures

    Priests? Pope's inner circle?

    "the likelihood of finding a priest in the Pope's inner circle"

    I would imagine the likelihood of such a discovery to be quite high no?

  30. bugalugs

    @ The Original Ash et al

    The 1/3g of mass was what they couldn't account for when they'd done all the sums, representing mass that was " destroyed " not that which had merely fissioned and

    dispersed explosively.

    The first atom bomb was exploded at Amolgordo, New Mexico in the Trinity test of July 16th 1945, more than 65 years ago, btw.

  31. Ronny Cook

    Catholic dilithium monopoly

    Clearly if they want to contain additional antimatter they will need access to dilithium crystals.

    For obvious reasons it's clear the Vatican is holding their dilithium monopoly very closely indeed.

  32. Sureo

    ...but actually it is outrageously rare...

    If antimatter wasn't rare, wouldn't the universe annihilate itself?

  33. TheOtherHobbbes

    You forget

    that with poor English and worse writing, anything is possible.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    We're getting ahead of ourselves here.....

    Surely we must have an intermediate step from going from existing nuclear technology straight to antimatter. I propose that we finish the development and commercialization of "Back to the Future"-style Mr. Fusion!! Once society has that much cheap energy, everyone with a decent backyard will have an antimatter-producing collider!!

    Then we can worry about someone evaporating the Vatican.....

    1. Chemist

      "society has that much cheap energy"

      Energy will never be cheap !

  35. Andus McCoatover

    "Remember, Remember the Fifth of November"...

    ...Antimatter, Treason and Plot.

    Now, there's an idea...

    Am I such an old git I can remember something like that??

  36. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    The anti-lewis

    The 1 at the end of lewis's name signifies that he is the matter (+1) version of Lewis, if he ever meets lewis(-1) we are in trouble

  37. mmiied

    not real boffins

    "...and it would seem only a mild one in powering possible future starships"

    see not real boffins

  38. Alex Walsh

    Below 1k

    Lewis, if the boffins at CERN can't get below 1 degree Kelvin, they need to have a chat with the boffins at the ultra low temperature physics dept at my old University- Lancaster. They've got into the micro Kelvin range:

    Silly boffins, they should have popped along the road to Morecambe, it's even colder there.

  39. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "The boffinry community"

    Excellent phrase.

  40. Colin Millar

    anti-schmatter - pah!

    I reckon it doesn't even exist.

    Probably just a dead mouse in the circuits somewhere causing a faulty reading.

  41. Doug Glass

    Antimatter Spelled Backwards ...

    ... is Rettamitna.

    Read all about it here:

    Slow day.

  42. Anonymous Coward



    Its more likely that someone will figure out how to harvest the naturally occurring antiparticles present in the solar wind (iirc something in the order of a gram per day) and this increases when there is a large solar flare.

    So a superconducting magnetic scoop could be used to channel them into a collector where they can be stored and hopefully used for scientific research or propulsion.

    AC, because he doesen't want a visit from the Inquisition..

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