British scientists are ahead in the race to solve one of the biggest mysteries of the universe – why matter exists.

Researchers at the University of Sussex have been given a £2.3 million grant to make some of the most sensitive measurements ever undertaken of sub-atomic particles.

They hope within six years to have answers which might finally explain the creation of matter at the dawn of time.

Physicist Dr Philip Harris, leading the group, said: “Although there are a couple of other teams in the world working in this same area, we’re managing to stay ahead of them, and we are constantly striving to beat our own world record.

“This is all very exciting for us. With this new development, we are on the verge of a major breakthrough in our understanding of the very origin of matter in the universe.”

For years scientists have been vexed by the question of why there is more matter in the universe than anti-matter.

Both were formed at the time of the Big Bang, about 13.7 billion years ago.

For every particle formed, an anti-particle would also have been formed. When matter and anti-matter meet they turn to energy in a blinding flash. At the start of the universe, equal numbers of both would have annihilated each other, leaving nothing but light.

But a tiny imbalance in the laws of nature allowed a little matter to be left over and become galaxies of stars.

The only way scientists can verify theories to explain this anomaly is to study the corresponding imbalance in sub-atomic particles.
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