Exploring the secrets of dark matter

Feb 18, 2010

Even the biggest Star Trek fan would probably have trouble understanding the technical details of the research done by Queen's University Particle Astrophysics Professor Wolfgang Rau of Kingston, Canada.

Professor Rau is the only Canadian researcher among the group of 60 scientists involved in the Cryogenic Search experiment (CDMS) whose latest findings are published in the latest edition of Science magazine. Professor Rau says the project is among the top two or three most important experiments on this subject in the world.

He uses a simple analogy to explain his complex search for dark matter - the difficult-to-detect particles that played a central role in the evolution of the Universe and the formation of our galaxy.

"It's kind of trying to find a needle in a haystack. But we tend to do things a little differently in science. Instead of just digging for the needle, we are looking at getting rid of some of the hay," says Professor Rau, who also holds a Canada Research Chair position in particle astrophysics.

The needle would be an interaction between a dark matter particle with ordinary matter in a , while the hay would represent interactions of particles from other sources such as , referred to as "background".

Two events recorded during the CDMS experiment had the characteristics of an interaction involving dark matter particle.

"We do additional tests to see if these interactions have come from background sources or if they were indeed from ," says Professor Rau. "We have seen these two events and so far we really can't say what it is. We have reached the limit of what our experiment can do with this configuration. Presently we are upgrading our detectors to improve our sensitivity, but eventually we plan to build a much bigger experiment at SNOLAB, the [Queen's affiliated] underground laboratory near Sudbury."

Understanding dark matter will help scientists answer basic questions about the origin of the universe.

"Dark matter makes up roughly 85 per cent of the matter in the universe and we don't know what it is," says Professor Rau. "Dark matter is responsible for us having galaxies in the first place and plays a very important role in the evolution of the universe. It is fundamental science what we are doing. If there was no dark matter, we wouldn't be here."

Explore further: Researchers demonstrate ultra low-field nuclear magnetic resonance using Earth's magnetic field

More information: Copy of the study is available at: www.sciencemag.org/cgi/rapidpd… cience.1186112v1.pdf

Related Stories

Dark Matter Music

Jan 21, 2008

School of Physics and Astronomy Professor Prisca Cushman has created a Youtube video of the Dark Matter Music Box which uses data from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) and converts them into sound and light.

Study sheds light on dark matter

Feb 06, 2006

British astronomers say they have, for the first time, determined some of the physical characteristics of dark matter.

Team Shines Cosmic Light on Missing Ordinary Matter

Jan 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- An international team of scientists, led by University of Maryland astronomer Stacy McGaugh, has found that individual galactic objects have less ordinary matter, relative to dark matter, than does the Universe ...

Has PAMELA Already Seen Dark Matter?

Aug 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Back in 2006, PAMELA (a Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics) was launched with the purpose of detecting cosmic radiation and looking for clues pointing ...

FSU Physicist Shining a Light on Dark Matter

Oct 02, 2007

We’ve all been taught that our bodies, the Earth, and in fact all matter in the universe is composed of tiny building blocks called atoms. Now imagine if this weren’t the case. This mind-bending concept is at the core ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

brant
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2010
"Dark matter makes up roughly 85 per cent of the matter in the universe and we don't know what it is," says Professor Rau. "Dark matter is responsible for us having galaxies in the first place and plays a very important role in the evolution of the universe. It is fundamental science what we are doing. If there was no dark matter, we wouldn't be here."

Thats a pretty bold conjecture.
broglia
not rated yet Feb 19, 2010
It's grant politics and every scientist is supporting subject of his own interest. Researcher of photosynthesis or for example water clusters would say the very same.
Nik_2213
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2010
...If there was no dark matter, we wouldn't be here."

I'm a DM skeptic, and hope that regular Astronomers will find a lot of the apparently missing matter, gradually whittling that ghastly 85% down to experimental error. Even so, that huge gap suggests that something is very wrong with Newtonian gravity, our model of matter or both...

Irony is that the Sun's position in an interstellar bubble blown by a supernova may skew the local DM density, such that we sit in the 'eye of the storm'...
ppnlppnl
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2010
Um, a supernova can't have any effect on the local DM density because it does not interact with regular matter.
daywalk3r
1 / 5 (4) Feb 20, 2010
I'm a DM skeptic, and hope that regular Astronomers will find a lot of the apparently missing matter, gradually whittling that ghastly 85% down to experimental error. Even so, that huge gap suggests that something is very wrong with Newtonian gravity, our model of matter or both...
Or they will just find that gravity is not scale invariant with our metric system. Drawing the curve would become the next big challenge, with even bigger impact..

Anyways.. I allways thought that "dark matter" and "dark energy" are just synonyms for a lame excuse ;-)
Objectivist
not rated yet Feb 22, 2010
"Um, a supernova can't have any effect on the local DM density because it does not interact with regular matter."

Don't mix EM interaction with gravitational interaction.
broglia
1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2010
MOND theorist found an experiment, that could conceivably be performed on the Earth's surface. If MOND is correct, the rotating disk should feel an aberrant kick.

http://www.newsci...rth.html

Note that, this kick is known already as so called Alais effect. It probably destroyed observations of Probe B, too. The existence of kick still doesn't mean, MOND theory of dark matter is completely right, because dark matter is a composite effect, IMO. Nevertheless the fact, value of Pioneer anomalous deceleration is close to value of product of Hubble constant and speed of light indicates, MOND theory remains relatively exact description of dark matter effect inside of solar system.