Spoiler alert: this article contains the answer to an unsolved mystery of science. Please avert your eyes while reading so you don’t give anything away to your Walter ego.
Have you ever wondered why there is matter in the universe, but no anti-matter? (I’ll give you a moment to jog your joggables.)
Hmm, I do see matter there on my shoes. And—oh no, on the carpet as well. Let me just have K-Mac grab the spray bottle of…what? We have no anti-matter? They don’t make it anymore? They never made it? Hmm. I wonder…no, wait. I’m pretty sure this is on the Great List Of Things Not Worth Wondering About. So, no.
Yeah, I haven’t either.
But, apparently, there are astrophysicists who do wonder and who lose sleep over it and who think it’s just as serious a question as “What’s the deal with darkness?”
To be precise, let’s define our terms. Matter is, essentially, stuff. Either the kind floating out in space or in your basement whenever the creek rises. We’ve all got plenty of stuff, whether floating, nailed down or set out on the curb in cans every Monday night.
Because the word stuff is so low-brow, the American Academy of Wrong Words (AAWW) warned scientists that no one would take them seriously unless they started calling stuff that matters matter.
Scientists not only took the cue, they took the chalk, the twenty yards of green felt, the chuck nurse (not Chuck, the nurse), and racked their balls onto a slab of Peach Bottom slate – metaphorically, of course.*
They ran everything through your basic astrophysics meat-grinder: a gas chromatograph, mass spectrometer (aka: gasmass. Hurry! Only two left, still-in-shrink.) On the seventh day the physicists rested — although somebody out in the rec room called an eight ball in the side pocket, missed the shot and ripped a hole in the felt. The duck tape repair is barely noticeable when you leave the room.
One night, scientists working late decided they needed a word to distinguish matter from stuff that doesn’t matter. The guy who answered the phone at the AAWW suggested anti-matter. (Turns out that guy was just Sammy, the night wordman. The next day the AAWW fired him without so much as an indefinite pronoun.)
Anyway, your scientific types then got a little too cute — forgetting there is no cute in astrophysics (although still plenty of boisterous debate in bistrophysics.) Scientists cutely announced to the media their major discovery of anti-matter before actually discovering anti-matter. (Note: The World Italics Council unanimously approved this italicization.)
Cackling reporters noted that, unlike matter — which comes in every color of the rainbow (including orc blood); almost every geometric shape, (obtuse triangles, yes, but dopey triangles, no); and every size from Petite to Mobius Dickius XXL – anti-matter is invisible, dude.
“If you can’t see it, how do you know it’s really there?” cackled one. “And if it isn’t there,” copy-cackled another, “how do you know it isn’t?”
Other than “Ummawumuh wibbly woobly,” scientists had no answer.
But, look. Many things in science are invisible: fun, natural gas, pi (square, not round), Schroedinger’s Cat, Doodleman’s Dog, Garibaldi’s Groundhog, and the sixth sense for finding the fastest possible route to Intercourse, Pennsylvania.
Problematically, after declaring anti-matter anti-matter, scientists not only spent years trying to prove it really exists, but that (Irony off the starboard bow! Dive! Dive!) it matters. Geezy weezy, science dudes. You already told us matter is what matters.
The way I see it (and I see it a lot), the answer is stupidly simple: Some stuff matters, some stuff don’t. Personally, I think most stuff falls into the don’t column and is not worth worrying over. Instead, we should take comfort in the universally accepted don’t-matter corollary (aka: Larry’s Corolla): It’s all good.
*No actual balls were injured during the making of this metaphor.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2017, all rights reserved.