Scared of the dark? Don’t be a WIMP!

Would you be afraid to chase a cosmic ghost? The ghost in question is the ever-mysterious presence of dark matter, which is said to encompass 80% of the mass of our universe and has eluded astronomers since the 1930’s. But it is only within the past twenty years that scientists have begun to actually discover measurable evidence of what has presented itself as un-space. You can’t see it, but it’s there – surrounding everything in an amorphous cloak which, by default, gives shape and form to adjacent celestial bodies through the inexorable force of its own gravity.

Evidence of dark matter is, to say the least, tricky. We’ve invented sensors that detect “events” that lead to a hypothesis of its potential presence quantified by WIMPs – weakly interacting massive particles leftover from the Big Bang. Weakly-interacting because they’re invisible (or at least undetectable) and massive because of their immense gravity.

The ongoing question is whether our existing sensors are in fact detecting WIMPs or merely ordinary subatomic particles. In one experiment, detectors made from germanium and silicon crystals were able to map a WIMP interaction, whereby the particle bounced off of an atom, which left a barely detectable residual heat signature. But it is not yet clear whether these signatures represent background noise. 

The related theory of Supersymmetry could elucidate many ongoing questions about dark matter and their invisible, formless particles. This theory postulates that for every boson, there exists a corresponding fermion with the same mass. And though this theory has not been proved, it is said to be a modern explanation of dark matter.

For further reading on this, Adam Mann’s article Cosmology: The hunting of the dark  published in Nature News is an excellent study these topics.


~ by relativitygirl on September 14, 2011.

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