01/05/2013 07:56 BST

Anti-Gravity's Existence Tested For First Time At Cern's Alpha Experiment

Never ones to shy away from a challenge, scientists at CERN are to examine one of physics' most confounding principles - anti-gravity.

Until recently the phenomenon was restrained to the world of science fiction.

It has now been suggested anti-matter, the mirror image of regular matter, might react to gravity in the opposite manner to normal matter - and thus be a key to unlocking a form of levitation on very small scales, or at least proving that anti-matter exists.

large hadron collider

The LHC is 17 miles in circumference and straddles the border of France and Switzerland

Physicists believe equal amounts of matter and anti-matter were created at the beginning of the universe.

When they collide the two types of particles are obliterated and turn into pure light in a process called annihilation.

What is still a mystery is why the universe appears to contain far more matter than anti-matter -- prompting scientists to examine differences in their properties that could explain the anomaly.

An experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider has made the first steps in looking for a solution in the theoretical existence of anti-gravity. This proposes the idea that anti-matter would 'float up' or be repelled by gravitational forces, rather than being attracted to them.

The Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (Alpha) experiment mastered the incredibly tricky task of keeping anti-matter around long enough to examine how it behaves before it annihilates.

Data from previous experiments was re-examined to look for the effects of gravity on antihydrogen atoms.

And the results? Inconclusive for now. Working with anti-matter is still extremely difficult, and scientists are still a long way off from demonstrating anti-gravity in the lab, let alone building a Back to the Future hover-board, which was the first thing we thought about when we heard the news.

Jeffrey Hangst, spokesperson for Alpha, told the BBC: "It's not a very interesting band yet but it's the first time that anyone has even been able to talk about doing this.

"We actually have a machine that can address this question, that's what's exciting for us here, and we know how to get from here to the interesting regime."