In a revolutionary new theory, Dr. Robert Foot of the University of Melbourne argues that meteorites composed of mirror matter could impact with the Earth without leaving any ordinary fragments. Indeed, the theory seems to provide a simple explanation for the puzzling Tunguska event - the blast which destroyed a huge area of Siberian forest in 1908. While scientists have attributed this explosion to an ordinary meteorite, no traces of such an object have ever been found. Moreover, there are frequent smaller such events, occurring on a yearly basis, which are even more puzzling. Foot's new book, "Shadowlands:Quest for Mirror Matter in the Universe", lays clear the scientific case for mirror matter. It describes the fascinating evidence for its existence including, astronomical observations suggesting that most of our galaxy is made from a new form of matter - dark matter, puzzling Jupiter sized planets only a few million miles from their host star, the mysterious slowing down of spacecraft in our solar system. Remarkably, it is also possible that Pluto the most distant planet might even be a mirror world, which can explain various anomalous features of its orbit. Perhaps, the most important consequence of all this if true is the possibility of actually extracting the mirror matter from the Tunguska impact site and other such sites around the world. Invisible asteroids and other cosmic bodies made of a new form of matter may pose a threat to Earth, agrees a noted Australian physicist. But the mirror matter idea has not attracted a huge following among physicists. In a recent article, Howard Georgi of Harvard University says: "Foot's ideas have notattracted a huge following in the community that cares about these things, perhaps because the problems they solve, while interesting, are not the most critical puzzles that we are wrestling with." Nevertheless, mirror matter, if it exists, would be a completely new type of material with a potentially huge commercial value. Its scientific value would be of no less importance. Nearly 50 years ago it was discovered that the fundamental particles, such as the electron and proton, have `left-handed' interactions - they do not respect mirror symmetry. This experimental fact motivates the idea that a set of `mirror particles' exist. The left-handedness of the ordinary particles can then be balanced by the right-handedness of the mirror particles. In this way mirror reflection symmetry can exist but requires something profoundly new. It requires the existence of a completely new form of matter called `mirror matter'. Remarkably the mirror matter theory is capable of simply explaining a large number of contemporary puzzles in astrophysics and particle physics. The evidence ranges from observations suggesting that most of the matter in the Universe is invisible, to unexpected properties of ghostly particles called `neutrinos'. This book explains this fascinating theory and its evidence at a level accessible to the non-specialist.
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