The baryon asymmetry problem in physics refers to the imbalance in baryonic matter and antibaryonic matter in the observable universe. Neither the standard model of particle physics, nor the theory of general relativity provides an obvious explanation for why this should be so, and it is a natural assumption that the universe be neutral with all conserved charges. The Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Since this does not seem to be the case, it is likely some physical laws must have acted differently or did not exist for matter and antimatter. There are several competing hypotheses to explain the imbalance of matter and antimatter that resulted in baryogenesis, but there is as of yet no one consensus theory to explain the phenomenon.
CP (charge parity) violations
Most explanations of the observed baryon asymmetry involve a modification of the standard model of particle physics to allow for some reactions (specifically involving the weak nuclear force) to proceed more easily than their opposite. This is called "violating CP symmetry" in weak interactions. Such a violation could allow matter to be produced more commonly than antimatter in conditions immediately after the Big Bang. They were first seen in the 1964 Fitch-Cronin experiment. In 2013 LHCb announced discovery of CP violation in B meson decays, so did BaBar and Belle scientists in 2015.
Regions of the universe where antimatter dominates
Another possible explanation of baryon asymmetry is that matter and antimatter are essentially separated into different, widely separated regions of the universe. From a distance, antimatter atoms are indistinguishable from matter atoms, both produce light (photons) in the same way. But along the boundary between matter and antimatter regions, annihilation (and the subsequent production of gamma radiation) would occur. How easy such a boundary would be to detect would depend on its distance and the density of matter and antimatter. Such boundaries, if they exist, would likely lie in deep intergalactic space. The density of matter in intergalactic space is reasonably well established at about one atom per cubic metre. Assuming this is a typical density near a boundary, the gamma ray luminosity of the boundary interaction zone can be calculated. No such zones have been detected, but 30 years of research have placed boundaries on how far they might be. On the basis of such analyses, it is now deemed unlikely that any region within the observable universe is dominated by antimatter.
Electric dipole moment
The presence of an electric dipole moment (EDM) in any fundamental particle would violate both parity (P) and time (T) symmetries. As such, an EDM would allow matter and antimatter to decay at different rates leading to a possible matter-antimatter asymmetry as observed today. Many experiments are currently being conducted to measure the EDM of various physical particles. All measurements are currently consistent with no dipole moment. However, the results do place rigorous constraints on the amount of symmetry violation that a physical model can permit. The most recent EDM limit, published in 2014, was that of the ACME Collaboration, which measured the EDM of the electron using a pulsed beam of thorium monoxide (ThO) molecules.
- Sarkar, Utpal (2007). Particle and astroparticle physics. CRC Press. p. 429. ISBN 1-58488-931-4.
- Davidson, Keay; Smoot, George (2008). Wrinkles in Time. New York: Avon. pp. 158–163. ISBN 0061344443.
- Silk, Joseph (1977). Big Bang. New York: Freeman. p. 299.
- Canetti, L.; Drewes, M.; Shaposhnikov, M. (2012). "Matter and Antimatter in the Universe". New J.Phys. 14: 095012. arXiv:. Bibcode:2012NJPh...14i5012C. doi:10.1088/1367-2630/14/9/095012.
- The ACME Collaboration; et al. (17 January 2014). "Order of Magnitude Smaller Limit on the Electric Dipole Moment of the Electron". Science. 343 (269): 269–72. doi:10.1126/science.1248213.