After 80 years of painstaking experimentation, scientists have directly observed a sub-atomic particle that is its own antiparticle. The breakthrough promises a leap forward in quantum computing and potentially shows the path to finding dark matter.
The particles are called the Majorana fermions, after the Italian scientist who proposed their existence back in 1937. Quantum theory was in its infancy at the time, and scientists first theorized that antimatter existed: an opposite particle to the commonly-observed electrons and other particles were necessary for quantum equations to work.
Although since then many forms of antimatter have been observed, the Majorana fermion remained elusive for decades, partially because it virtually doesn’t interact with regular particles. A team of researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands reported a possible discovery of evidence of the Majorana back in 2012, but other scientists pointed out that their results could have been caused by other phenomena.