CERN scientists have created and held a antimatter for 16 minutes. Yet fear not, this does not portend an antimatter bomb. The reason for creating antimatter is to study this weird counterpart to matter in the hope of more thoroughly understanding the creation of the universe. Basic laws of physics hold that matter and antimatter were created in equal quantities in the Big Bang and went on to cancel each other out, leaving behind only energy, no stars, no planets, no matter.

Scientists are struggling to understand why matter gained a slight advantage over antimatter after the Big Bang. A fraction of a percent of matter formed the galaxies, stars and planets. Matter and antimatter annihilate each other and math would predict that matter should not be here, but it is. There is something we don’t understand about the theory of the Big Bang. The laws of physics say that matter and antimatter are the same with reversed charges. Matter, which makes up everything around us, contains positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. Antimatter contains negatively charged protons and positive electrons or positrons.

But CERN isn’t first to create anti-matter, scientists have been created antimatter for decades. In fact, it occurs naturally but rarely. Even a natural banana, rich in potassium, will emit positrons as it decays.

The CERN particle accelerator traps anti-hydrogen before it evaporates upon exposure to any matter. A web of magnetic and electric beams hold the anti-matter particles in suspension in a perfect vacuum for their short existence. By holding anti-hydrogen in existence for 16 minutes, the scientists are able to study it more closely. Physicists wonder about the effect of gravity on anti-matter.

All this research is being done in the name of pure curiosity. Scientists hold little promise of creating new forms of energy, as the amount of electricity consumed by the giant CERN collider is immense. But some do hold hope that applications in imaging and medicine could flow forth from the further understanding of anti-matter.