No way. "The U.S. Air Force is quietly spending millions of dollars investigating ways to use a radical power source -- antimatter, the eerie 'mirror' of ordinary matter -- in future weapons," the San Francisco Chronicle reports.Beyond the pointed-ear cool factor, antimatter would make a powerful weapon -- at least in theory. "If electrons or protons collide with their antimatter counterparts, they annihilate each other. In so doing, they unleash more energy than any other known energy source, even thermonuclear bombs," the Chron explains.
The energy from colliding positrons and antielectrons "is 10 billion times ... that of high explosive," Kenneth Edwards, director of the "revolutionary munitions" team at the Munitions Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base, noted in an address to the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC). Moreover, 1 gram of antimatter, about 1/25th of an ounce, would equal "23 space shuttle fuel tanks of energy." Thus "positron energy conversion," as he called it, would be a "revolutionary energy source" of interest to those who wage war.It almost defies belief, the amount of explosive force available in a speck of antimatter -- even a speck that is too small to see. For example: One millionth of a gram of positrons contain as much energy as 37.8 kilograms (83 pounds) of TNT, according to Edwards' March speech. A simple calculation, then, shows that about 50-millionths of a gram could generate a blast equal to the explosion (roughly 4,000 pounds of TNT, according to the FBI) at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.Unlike regular nuclear bombs, positron bombs wouldn't eject plumes of radioactive debris. When large numbers of positrons and antielectrons collide, the primary product is an invisible but extremely dangerous burst of gamma radiation. Thus, in principle, a positron bomb could be a step toward one of the military's dreams from the early Cold War: a so-called "clean" superbomb that could kill large numbers of soldiers without ejecting radioactive contaminants over the countryside.A copy of Edwards' speech on NIAC's Web site emphasizes this advantage of positron weapons in bright red letters: "No Nuclear Residue."It's wet-the-bed scary, sure. But don't get out the rubber sheets, yet. Right now, only about 84 billionths of a gram of antiprotons are made worldwide, according to Los Alamos physicist Steve Howe, who is studying antimatter-driven trips to Alpha Centauri for NIAC."With present techniques, the price tag for 100-billionths of a gram of antimatter would be $6 billion," according to the Chron.