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A new study may help answer one of the universe’s biggest mysteries: Why is there more matter than antimatter? That answer, in turn, could explain why everything from atoms to black holes exists. 

Billions of years ago, soon after the Big Bang, cosmic inflation stretched the tiny seed of our universe and transformed energy into matter. Physicists think inflation initially created the same amount of matter and antimatter, which annihilate each other on contact. But then something happened that tipped the scales in favor of matter, allowing everything we can see and touch to come into existence—and a new study suggests that the explanation is hidden in very slight ripples in space-time.

“If you just start off with an equal component of matter and antimatter, you would just end up with having nothing,” because antimatter and matter have equal but opposite charge, said lead study author Jeff Dror, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and physics researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “Everything would just annihilate.”

Obviously, everything did not annihilate, but researchers are unsure why. The answer might involve very strange elementary particles known as neutrinos, which don’t have electrical charge and can thus act as either matter or antimatter.

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Category: Science