Physicist explains how new results from an underground experiment add intrigue to the hunt for dark matter

Apr 23, 2013
Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano.

Physicists operating an underground experiment in Minnesota reported last week that they have found possible hints of dark matter. The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) experiment detected three events with the characteristics expected of dark matter, Kevin McCarthy, a PhD student in physics at MIT, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver.

These results do not meet the criteria use to claim a discovery, so CDMS scientists now plan to conduct more analysis. One of those scientists, Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano, an associate professor of physics at MIT and McCarthy's , spoke with MIT News about the new results.

Q: What are the implications of this result? Why should non-physicists care about this?

A: We are trying to answer a very simple question: What is the universe made of? The strange picture that has emerged over the last two decades is one where over 84 percent of the matter in the universe is not in the that make up stars or or rocks or dust or gas, but in a new substance that we call dark matter.

We currently think dark matter consists of a yet-to-be-discovered that permeates all of space. If this is the right picture, millions of these go through our bodies every second. Scientists have been trying to see interactions between dark matter and "normal" matter—the detectors at our underground experiment.

If such interactions are found, they would carry the imprints of the properties of the dark-matter particle, information that would help us open a new window of understanding into the most of our universe at both the subatomic and cosmological scales.

Q: What was MIT's contribution to this finding?

A: The CDMS collaboration is composed of 18 institutions; running the experiment, taking the data, and analyzing it is a group effort. A significant portion of this analysis, however, was carried out by Kevin McCarthy as part of his PhD thesis at MIT. The analysis of a potential dark-matter interpretation of the data was done by MIT postdoctoral researcher Julien Billard.

Q: What is the next step for this research?

A: Our results are intriguing, but not enough for a definitive discovery. To really determine the source of these events, we are doing further analysis on this data, and are taking new data right now in our experiment half a mile underground in an old iron mine in the town of Soudan, Minn. Other dark-matter experiments are also exploring this region of interest. It will take several experiments, seeing consistent signals, in order to definitively solve the dark-matter riddle.

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User comments : 20

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Gawad
not rated yet Apr 23, 2013
Excuse me, did he say "two decades"?
hemitite
not rated yet Apr 23, 2013
Nature clothed in mystery,
Undressed by Science history,
With clumsy guesses in the dark,
For groping hand to find their mark.
Q-Star
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 23, 2013
Excuse me, did he say "two decades"?


Yeah, that's what he said. I'm thinking he is referring to the Lambda CDM with WIMPs model that has taken precedence in the various theories. But I could be wrong, he really wasn't clear with that remark..
metalfab08
1 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2013
this is just a thought but everybody is looking for the higesbozon partical an trying to unifi gravity or understand it . but what if the higsbozon an but separate gravity particals are one in a thousand or say millions tats still a small speck .but could explane gravity why its so weak an never found yet just say might even be so much less in billions becase it so weak it's probly wont be found in 20 - 50 more years an the extra particals that supposed to be their too might even be fewer can I please have a response to this I would like to know very much thank you
bob j. reichman jr
metalfab08@yahoo.com
an on the same subject this would explain black holes too by each time it takes in gas rocks, astriods , planets the gravity, an higgs builds up an explaines why light cant escape it it builds an builds. an light is a partical with protrons, an netrons . an that would make light have some mass to it small as it may does this make any sence to any body email or pm thnx
metalfab08
1 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2013
an maybe dark has mor of these particals tham regulary matter its just condensed more
Ober
1 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2013
What about the mass or gravitational effect of virtual particles? Surely the quantum foam must impart a mass imprint?
Ectoplasma
not rated yet Apr 23, 2013
Excuse me, did he say "two decades"?


Yeah, that's what he said. I'm thinking he is referring to the Lambda CDM with WIMPs model that has taken precedence in the various theories. But I could be wrong, he really wasn't clear with that remark..


He is probably referring to around the time when Saul Perlmutter and competition made the measurements that confirmed that the universe is accelerating in it's expansion.

This really placed dark energy as a serious topic of research regarding explaining this, at-the-time, counter-intuitive result.

They thought gravity would be slowing the universe down, and wanted to measure its rate of deceleration.

Instead we are left with the question of what the hell is speeding it up.

The CDMS is a great way to pose the question to the universe, we just need to be patient and wait for the answer that appears to be trickling in.

They can do this! Remember Einstein explained the photon even when he thought the universe was static.
ant_oacute_nio354
1 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2013
Dark matter doesn't exist.
The orbital speed of the galaxies is constant because there's no a big
central mass. The mass is distributed. When the distance increases the
mass also increases. There's no mystery.

Antonio Jose Saraiva
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Apr 24, 2013
There's no mystery.

Well, there is a mystery: Where the hell do you get your idiotic snippets? Some form of "random physics nonsense generator"?

What about the mass or gravitational effect of virtual particles? Surely the quantum foam must impart a mass imprint?

What imprint does a uniformely distributed effect leave?
johanfprins
1 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2013
Why MUST "dark matter" consist of "particles"?
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 24, 2013
Because it has a gravitational effect. And the only thing we know of that has a gravitational effect is something that has mass. And we currently model mass with particles.

It's just a name for an observed effect. Don't get hung up on the words.
johanfprins
1 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2013
Because it has a gravitational effect. And the only thing we know of that has a gravitational effect is something that has mass. And we currently model mass with particles.


Why does one require the undefined concept of "particles" to model mass? It is nonsense! A coherent continuous EM wave which fills a massive volume has energy and thus mass without consisting of "particles".

It's just a name for an observed effect. Don't get hung up on the words.


To understand physics one MUST be clear and concise with words and what they mean. Therefore you MUST get "hung-up on the words".
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2013
Why does one require the undefined concept of "particles" to model mass?

We do not need it. It's just a label. Using the name "particle" is just a means to describe something that results in a quantifiable effect. and sinc ther seem to be areas which have more or less of the stuff it seems, so far, reasonable that the amount of stuff itself is quantifiable- hence the characterization as 'particle'.

Whether you think it's nonsense or not - it really doesn't matter. The math is the same no matter how you model it. Using the label 'particle' (more specifically WIMP) or using MACHOs or axions doesn't change the math/physics of it. In the end the resulting theory must conform to observation and have predictive power. Anything else is irrelevant.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) Apr 24, 2013
Jose Feliciano does a great version of Feliz Navidad, Enactali Feliciano does a great version of pseudo-science with his parroting of dark matter nonsense.
johanfprins
1 / 5 (2) Apr 24, 2013
Why does one require the undefined concept of "particles" to model mass?

We do not need it. It's just a label. Using the name "particle" is just a means to describe something that results in a quantifiable effect.


What "quantifiable effect" demands the label of a "particle"? I know of NONE!

and sinc ther seem to be areas which have more or less of the stuff it seems, so far, reasonable that the amount of stuff itself is quantifiable- hence the characterization as 'particle'.


This statement is unadulterated nonsense!

Whether you think it's nonsense or not - it really doesn't matter. The math is the same no matter how you model it.


No, the math is not the same when the concept of "particle" is not required!

In the end the resulting theory must conform to observation and have predictive power.


Correct, provided that the theory does not require Voodoo concepts like epicycles or renormalization!
Q-Star
3 / 5 (4) Apr 24, 2013
Yeah, that's what he said. I'm thinking he is referring to the Lambda CDM with WIMPs model that has taken precedence in the various theories. But I could be wrong, he really wasn't clear with that remark..


He is probably referring to around the time when Saul Perlmutter and competition made the measurements that confirmed that the universe is accelerating in it's expansion.

This really placed dark energy as a serious topic of research regarding explaining this, at-the-time, counter-intuitive result.


The article is about dark matter, not dark energy.

The person interviewed was referring to dark matter, which is phenomenologically completely unrelated to dark energy.

The two studies of supernovae done in the 90's which found the accelerated expansion were not concerned with dark matter, they were only concerned with confirming the validity of using type Ia supernovae as standard candles at high z. The finding of acceleration was completely serendipitous.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Apr 25, 2013
Excuse me, did he say "two decades"?

Sounds to me like he's referring to the time since we have really started setting up dedicated experiments for looking for dark matter (as well as calculating dark matter distributions). I.e. the time since we have really started to try and characterize what dark matter is (and how much ther is of it), other than just a source of unexplained gravity phenomena.
For that the 'two decades' mark seems about right.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2013
Why MUST "dark matter" consist of "particles"?


As opposed to what, Unicorns?
johanfprins
1 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2013
Why MUST "dark matter" consist of "particles"?


As opposed to what, Unicorns?


As opposed to continuously distributed matter which requires no "particles" to exist! It could be the primordial YLEM from which neutrons precipitated to start the formation of what we experience as "real matter". Its "particles" could thus be the ones we already know.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2013
how new results from an underground experiment add intrigue to the hunt for dark matter
Super-CDMS suggests a WIMP mass of 8.6GeV; AMS-02 indicates 300GeV or more; and we also have the Weniger line at Fermi which would imply a WIMP mass around 130−150GeV. The signals from all detectors should be coincident to say at least, because their sensitivity ranges overlap. These numbers are apparently inconsistent with each other and probably all artifacts, which have nothing to do with WIMPS.

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