Proof for Dark Matter's Existence Eludes Physicists Again, Even Though it's Supposed to Make Up 26% of the Universe
Three months of searching for evidence of dark matter has yielded no results, an international team of particle physicists working in a mile underground particle accelerator cavern of a former gold mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota said Wednesday.
Nonetheless, the particle physicists are not abandoning their search for proof of the existence of the invisible stuff they theorize comprises about a quarter of the universe, and accounts for a force more than six times the strength of magnetism, depending on distance. It is called dark because it is impermeable to light.
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On the micro level, according to one theory, dark matter may consist of subatomic weakly interacting massive particles weighing hundreds of times as much as do protons.
On the macro level, dark matter is the scaffolding of the universe slung between galaxies and super-galaxies. Astrophysicists were convinced the universe was expanding at an ever slower rate, and that one day, everything in the universe would tumble back together again. But they've reversed themselves, contending the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate as "dark energy," emanating from dark matter pushes the universe outward.
In three months of running the detector, particle physicists were unable to find any dark matter in the vat of super-cooled liquid xenon. Nonetheless, they were heartened by the lack of interference from other sources of energy which could muddy the results, according to Dr. Richard Gaitskell, professor of physics at Brown University and a spokesman for an international collaboration that operates the Large Underground Xenon experiment (LUX). They'll be running the accelerator again next year at even more sensitive levels of detection.
The LUX first-run results is the result of a collaboration with U.S. universities and national laboratories as well as with the United Kingdom and Portugal.
"This is only the beginning for LUX," Daniel McKinsey, an associate professor of physics at Yale and a spokesman for LUX, said. "Now that we understand the instrument and its backgrounds, we will continue to take data, testing for more and more elusive candidates for dark matter."
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