In a discovery that concludes an 80-year quest, Stanford and University of California researchers have found particles that are their own antiparticles – both matter and anti-matter. These once-elusive “Majorana fermions” could one day help make quantum computers more robust.
In 1928, English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac postulated every fundamental particle in the universe has an antiparticle — an identical twin, with an opposite charge — and when this pair met they would be annihilated, creating an explosion of energy.
Not long after, the first antimatter particle — positron, the electron’s opposite — was discovered, and antimatter quickly became part of popular culture, and scientific theory.
Matter and anti-matter are now fundamental to theories of the Big Bang — if and when the event created the universe out of nothing, the accompanying explosion created equal amounts of matter and anti-matter.
In 1937, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana updated Dirac’s theories with a bold new feature — he suggested that within the group of particles known as fermions (including the proton, neutron, electron, neutrino and quark), particles should be their own antiparticles. This hypothesis was subsequently dubbed the “Majorana fermion.” […]