Antimatter Containment, TOS: S1E27 “The Alternative Factor”

In this somewhat underwhelming episode of The Original Series, the Enterprise crew encounters a strange man named Lazarus, who seems to blink into existence.  After some on-board shenanigans…a phantom dilithium thief, injuries on the man’s face that disappear and reappear… the crew learns that Lazarus has a counterpart in another dimension.  This ‘anti-matter’ dimension is connected to ours via a dimensional corridor, which causes an energy ripple through space every time Lazarus enters it.  Apparently, the anti-matter counterpart is trying to destroy the original Lazarus, and also destroyed the civilization on the planet below.  Only the good Lazarus can stop him, and only within the dimensional corridor, as any contact between the two within either universe would mean the destruction of everything.

To give credit where it is due, this is the first alternate universe episode of the Star Trek saga.  However, its poor pacing and lack of elaboration makes scientific commentary somewhat difficult.  Antimatter is a real component of our own universe.  It refers to matter made of particles which have the same properties, but an opposite charge to their counterpart.  For example, positrons are positively charged electrons; positrons would be considered antimatter.  Particles such as these are found normally, and throughout the universe, although not in such high quantities as an entire human body.  When antimatter collides with matter, both substances destroy each other and produce gamma radiation.  It is unlikely that a mixture the size of two men would destroy an entire universe, but they may have destroyed the Enterprise.

According to Symmetry Magazine, it would only take one gram of antimatter to produce the energy of a nuclear bomb after coming into contact with regular matter.  Quite a significant source of energy, if we could only synthesize enough!  In the perfect utopia described in Star Trek, the Enterprise does indeed run on antimatter, with a dilithium crystal-controlled matter-antimatter reaction powering the ship’s engines.  With so many spaceships running on the channeled potential equivalent to small nuclear bombs, why then is an amount of antimatter the size of anti-Lazarus thought to be a threat to the universe?  Also, why exactly was the antimatter counterpart so hell bent on destroying the universe in the first place?  An intriguing possibility would be that since anti-particles behave in the opposite manner of regular particles, a person with an antimatter brain would manifest the opposite behavior.  This could lead to entire civilizations learning to favor ruthlessness as opposed to altruism.  Perhaps the Star Trek Mirror Universe is an antimatter universe, but no mention of antimatter (or explosions!) are given in the season two episode “Mirror Mirror”.

If the antimatter universe really was ‘evil’, or a threat to our universe, perhaps it would have been a better course of action to try to destroy it instead of ours.  The first Lazarus was clearly ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good.  Ultimately, the anti-Lazarus and his counterpart were both trapped in the dimensional corridor, doomed to fight each other forever.


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