By ERIC SCHELKOPF – Chronicle News Group

Fermilab science showcased in 'Angels and Demons'

BATAVIA – The new movie “Angels & Demons” revolves around a plot to destroy the Vatican using a small amount of antimatter stolen from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia produces two nanograms of antimatter a year. But area residents do not have to fear any kind of doomsday scenario if terrorists somehow got a hold of antimatter from Fermilab.

“Two nanograms is extremely small,” said Elizabeth Clements, senior science communicator at Fermilab. “It’s not something you can see. It would take 109 million years to make as much antimatter talked about in the book and movie.”

Fermilab officials on Tuesday joined with their counterparts from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in a live video conference to explain the science behind “Angels & Demons.”

The teleconference featured Rolf Heuer, director-general at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which operates the Large Hadron Collider, as well as Fermilab physicist Boris Kayser and former Fermilab director and Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman.

In the movie, the antimatter that is stolen is made using the Large Hadron Collider and is taken from CERN. Parts of the movie were filmed at CERN.

Antimatter and matter annihilate each other when they meet. Fermilab produces antimatter through its accelerator experiments.

“In the movie, a quarter gram of antimatter and a quarter gram of matter is equal to 10 kilo tons of TNT,” Clements said. “That is more than enough to destroy the Vatican.”

But antimatter is not just a topic talked about in movies.

Kayser noted that antimatter is already being used in everyday technology. For example, he said positron-emission tomography (PET) scans are used to detect breast, lung and other cancers.

While “Angels & Demons” is not totally accurate, Lederman is happy the movie is helping shed light on the work done by physicists at Fermilab and CERN.

“Public appreciation of what science can do and can’t do is extremely important,” Lederman said.

Physicists at Fermilab are in a race with their counterparts at CERN to find evidence of a hypothetical particle called the Higgs boson, better known as the “God Particle” because it is believed to give mass to matter that makes up the universe.

But Heuer said it is only a “friendly competition.”

“As a scientist, I don’t mind who makes the discovery first,” he said.

Want to go?

What: Fermilab will hold a public lecture on the science behind “Angels & Demons”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Ramsey Auditorium in Wilson Hall at Fermilab. Enter at Pine Street and Kirk Road.
Tickets: $5

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