What happens when a guy married to an art historian who dislikes religion writes a book using science?   "Angels&Demons", that's what.   It's the book Dan Brown wrote that made even less sense than "The DaVinci Code", because it was written before that blockbuster hit, even though the new movie seems like a sequel.  

Because it was written three years earlier, he had yet to refine his craft of jumbling vaguely non-specific pop social science with revisionist history - though he still knows he dislikes Catholics enough - and basically works in the expected conspiracy theory with some science as the weapon.

Science?   Indeed, CERN is not the star of the show but they can cause the world to be doomed in a way that makes last year's LHC hysterical wackadoodles proud.    In the movie, the destruction of said world is going to be due to antimatter (and, in a nod to recent paranoia, the Higgs boson) rather than art historians not getting any respect.   But just what does that mean?   Since the book was about antimatter we'll stick with that.     

Is antimatter real?

Sure.  No less a person than Paul A.M. Dirac, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge (after Newton, before Hawking) came up with the idea and it was verified in 1932 with the discovery of the positron in cosmic rays.    Here you go:

dirac antiparticle antimatter equation
Ever notice the most annoyingly difficult equations look really simple?

If antimatter is real, why don't we blow up?   

Don't know.   CERN produced antimatter under lab conditions in 1995 but not without matter.    So maybe there is an anti-universe out there with my evil twin - we should call him Skippy until he tells us otherwise.  We just know we haven't blown up and antimatter does exist.  Further answers require more funding.

Can I make a bomb out of antimatter or is Dan Brown full of it?
Yes.   When antimatter and matter come into contact, there is a lot of energy released.   Making enough antimatter to build a bomb worth a darn is not possible right now and you couldn't couldn't move it to a place Brown would love to blow up, like The Vatican.   Antimatter traps even capable of doing that have to be the size of, well, CERN.   So this is a trick question because you could do it and Dan Brown is full of it.

How can we know Dan Brown is full of it and CERN aren't trying to blow things up?   Aren't the Belgians in CERN?

Indeed, we all know that the Belgians are bent on world domination - you aren't going to get a lot of respect being called 'Walloon' otherwise - but CERN officially doesn't do anything with a military application.   I mean, we are talking about Europeans here.    

The official roster consists of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom(*).    Outside the UK, none of those countries know how to really throw it down.

Israel and the US, two countries we know will throw it down, only have Observer status.   Russia too, though no one can figure them out these days.  I can't prove this but I am told the UN tried to give Palestinian scientists Observer status too but the Arab countries refused to allow it and blamed Israel.

Back to these antimatter traps.  What's their story?

Remember I said the trap to store enough antimatter to make a bomb would have to be huge?   It's because antimatter will cause things to go ker-plooey if it interacts with matter, so antiparticles have to be stored in a magnetic field.    That takes energy and plenty of it.   We can store in the neighborhood of 1012 anti-particles this way.   That's 1,000,000,000,000 - yes, that's the  same number of zeroes Barack Obama used to fund condoms, 'green construction' awareness and hybrid vehicles for federal employees in order to get America back to work so it has to be a lot, right?  Actually, it isn't in either case - Obama will request more money next year and that antimatter is about 1 trillionth of a gram.    Worse, because those antiparticles have the same charge, they repel each other (isn't that a double negative?) so the more you have, the worse it gets.   Don't even get me started on the problems storing electrically neutral antimatter, since magnetic fields have no effect ...

Need to know more?   Here is a terrific video on the history of antimatter:

And go see "Angels & Demons" - at least Hanks isn't sporting that freakish haircut this time around.


(*)And it seems, Macedonia, though they get to do things for free, which may have been a reason Austria wanted to quit, though it now seems they have changed their minds.