Scientists spend a lot of time searching for dark matter, despite not really knowing if it exists

The Large Underground Xenon experiment, or LUX, just failed to turn up dark matter. So wait, what exactly is dark matter? Let’s quote the article, so that I can sound a wee bit smarter in the process.

Even more so than the recently discovered Higgs boson, dark matter is central to the universe.

About one-quarter of the cosmos is comprised of dark matter — five times that of the ordinary matter that makes up everything we see. Dark matter is often defined by what it isn’t: something that can be seen and something that is energy.

Scientists are pretty sure dark matter exists, but they are not certain what it is made of or how it interacts with ordinary matter. It is considered vital to all the scientific theories explaining how the universe is expanding and how galaxies move and interact.

This was the world’s most sensitive dark matter detector, and it came up empty — but scientists appear proud of that.

This is a good, “talk-to-me-like-I’m-in-elementary-school” read on the topic; essentially, dark matter came to the fore because of the issues around measuring galactic mass and the placement of stars within galaxies. Via NASA, roughly 68 percent of the universe is probably dark matter, but “more is unknown than known.” It’s kind of interesting that dark matter makes up 7/10 of the universe, and we know very little about it — and at the same time, the oceans make up 7/10 of our planet, and 90 percent of those are unexplored/unmapped. In the grand scheme of things, we know very little about the world, and broader cosmos, in which we live. Weird, right?

This is an interesting AMA about studying dark matter, and here’s a good thread on what would happen uponst the discovery of dark matter. It’s possible that a sensor on a space station saw hints of dark matter this past spring, and MIT is modifying particle accelerators in the search. Clearly, this is of central importance to understanding the universe.

This is fairly cool:

So, where are we going to eventually find dark matter? First things first: we may not. If we do, it’s likely to be miles underground in old mines (that’s where the AMA above is from, and where today’s search came up empty) or, theoretically, using Japan’s powerful Subaru telescope. There’s a lot of researchers working on the issue of dark matter, and TIME Magazine called it ‘the universe’s deepest secret’ this April. In addition to MIT (linked above), Blas Cabrera at Stanford is on the case here; he won the Panofsky Prize in 2012 for his work.

One of the best lines I found while reading and watching stuff about dark matter is someone asking a scientist directly what the universe is made out of, and said scientist responds, “We have no idea.” Amazing, right? Some of the smartest people on our planet, and we aren’t entirely sure what’s all around us in the universe. Another scientist, on a link above, admitted that cosmology basically doesn’t make any sense or have any true meaning until they prove (theoretically they have proven, so maybe a better word is find) dark matter. Regardless, it’s super interesting. If someone cracks this in the lifetime of anyone reading this, it’s likely to be bigger than Higgs-Boson.

Ted Bauer