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The Antimatter Calculator

In the original series Star Trek episode Obsession, Captain Kirk tells an ensign that one pound of antimatter can destroy a solar system. The truth is considerably less dramatic. One pound of antimatter equates to 19.5 megatons, which is comparable to a modern day H-bomb. In order to help prevent such mistakes from occurring in the future, I present the anti-matter caculator. Just plug in the amount of antimatter you're thinking of using and the calculator will return just how much destructive force it contains.

 Step 1. Indicate the unit of measure Pounds Ounces Kilograms Tons Step 2. Enter the amount of antimatter here: Step 3. Hit the compute button Step 4. Behold the results below:

A megaton is a unit of energy approximately equivalent to the energy released
in the detonation of 1,000,000 tons of TNT. Used to specify the energy output, and hence
destructive power, of nuclear weapons.

A kiloton is one-thousandth of a megaton.

To put things in perspective, here are some famous explosions from history and theory
along with their yields:

 Seymour Narrows, British Columbia 1958. 1,375 tons of chemical explosives. 1.375 kilotons Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. 13 kilotons. Fat man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. 20 kilotons. The Tanguska / Tunguska Event (spelling is in dispute), suspected comet impact in Tanguska, Russia on June 30, 1908. 10 megatons The Bravo test, one of the Bikini Atoll bomb tests. February 1954, was, at 15 megatons, the most powerful bomb ever detonated by the United States--far bigger than expected. 15 megatons One pound of antimatter 19.5 megatons Mount St. Helens May 18, 1980. 24 megatons The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. December 26, 2004 at 00:58:53 UTC. An undersea earthquake with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake generated a tsunami that is considered one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. 26.3 megatons Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated 11:32 AM 30 October 1961 (Moscow Time) Such a device could be souped up to deliver a 100 megaton blast. 50 megatons The third 1883 eruption of Krakatoa 150 megatons Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. At full power, a hurricane like Katrina releases 10 megatons every 20 minutes. 300 megatons World War III, computed as the simultaneous explosion of all known nuclear devices (about 15,000 today). 10,000 megatons "Dinosaur Killer" Impact of 10-15 km asteroid traveling at 20 kilometers per second. 100,000,000 megatons or 10^8 megatons A supernova, an explosion powerful enough to destroy a solar system. one billion billion billion megatons or 10^27 megatons

The Math

Several people have asked to see the math behind the calculations above.

(The energy contained within a given amount of mass = That mass times the speed of light squared)

E is expressed in joules, which is kilograms times (meters/second)^2, so the first thing is to convert 1 pound into it's equivalent in kg.

(A few people who wrote me on this had problems because they used grams instead of kilograms. If your answer is 1,000 times greater than mine, that's your problem)

1 ounce equates to 0.0283495231 kilograms

Aside:
Be careful here. Pounds are a measure of weight and kilograms are a measure of mass. An objects weight can vary while its mass remains constant. I presume here that we're talking one pound of mass at sea level on earth halfway between the equator and one of the poles. I never saw Captain Kirk on a planet that didn't have 9.8 m/s^2 for some reason.

Aside
English to metric conversion was the real killer on this project.

16 ounces in a pound * 0.0283495231 = 0.453592368 kg.

Also, we have to annihilate the antimatter with an equal amount of matter, so 2 * 0.453592368 kg = 0.907184736 kg.

Aside:
Anti-matter annihilation expresses its energy as a burst of high-frequency gamma radiation and high-speed neutrinos. Drop a pound of antimatter on the floor and you'll see a bright flash of light and then nothing else for the remainder of your very short life! The difficulty in getting antimatter to "blow up" is one reason why the US never developed an antimatter bomb.

(0.907184736 kg) * (2.9979e8 m/s ^ 2) = 8.15E+16 joules

There are 4.18e15 joules in a megaton, so 8.15E+16 joules equates to 19.51 megatons.

By their own admission, most of the writers on Star Trek had no idea what antimatter was, which is why we got wildly inaccurate statements like "One pound can destroy a solar system" or if two identical pieces of matter and antimatter meet, it's total annihilation of you, me, everybody!

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