As the most potent potential fuel we are familiar with at this stage in our development as a civilization, I think it’s time we talk about getting serious about Antimatter.
For those unfamiliar, Antimatter is atomically identical to normal matter, but electrically (and subatomically) backward. Electrons become positrons, and protons become anti-protons, particles with opposite electrical charges. (Think of flipping over the batteries in your remote control, so the “plus” side is now the “minus.”) Anyway, when matter and antimatter interact, they are both completely anihillated and converted to pure energy in a release that makes nuclear warheads quake in their boots. (Gene Roddenberry had it right 40 years ago when he powered his fictional interstellar craft with it.)
To this day, Antimatter is the only thing we know of that could power inter-star-system or galactic space transportation technology, real or imagined, and get the job done in a practical amount of time, (read: a single human lifetime).
This brings us to the present, where I currently find myself buried in 10 CFR 835 federal regulations for work. They’re the regulations our government has put into place to protect workers and the public from sources of radiation and properly warn them of areas of radiation and radioactive contamination. These rules relate heavily to symbology and the implementation of the familiar yellow-and-black radiation symbol.
You can see where this is going. Should we decide to seriously consider Antimatter as the fuel (read: energy storage) source that it has the potential to be, we are going to need to seriously consider warning people about it. The first step is creating a hazard identity.
There have been a couple of attempts at an Antimatter Hazard Symbol floating around the web, but I haven’t found that they adequately address the risks nor do they necessarily coincide with accepted symbology. Why not start with something familiar? I think the radiation tre-foil is panic-inducing enough to serve as an acceptable starting point…
So, the thought evolution of my proposed antimatter symbol is simple:
- The trefoil already represents radiative energy from a point, so why not start there? It’s already internationally recognizable.
- Instead of one point in the symbol center, use two overlapping inverted-color circles, representing the interaction of matter and antimatter.
- Instead of solid trefoil blades, bisect them to provide the visual appearance of even more energy released than radioactive matter.
- Instead of yellow, a warning color, use red, a color associated with grave danger or death. The background color doesn’t matter so much, as long as it provides a high contrast with the red. I like navy, violet, or black.
And there you go. People will get it, even if they aren’t specifically familiar. It immediately looks like a radiation symbol, only worse. Stay away. Find someone who has proper instrumentation and knowhow before you start messing with whatever you’ve got in your hands with this symbol on it.
UPDATE 04/2012: For more info and subsequent uses of the symbol, click here!
Second, modified example: (feel free to use any of these in your own projects/work!)