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The uncertainty of science: The most sensitive detector yet created by physicists has once again failed to detect dark matter, casting strong doubt on all present theories for its existence.
The latest results from an experiment called XENON1T at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, published on 30 October, continue a dry spell stretching back 30 years in the quest to nab dark-matter particles. An attempt by a Chinese team to detect the elusive stuff, the results of which were published on the same day, also came up empty-handed. Ongoing attempts by space-based telescopes, as well as at CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, have also not spotted any hints of dark-matter particles.
The findings have left researchers struggling for answers. “We do not understand how the Universe works at a deeper and more profound level than most of us care to admit,” says Stacy McGaugh, an astrophysicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
The process here has been a good demonstration of the scientific method. Observers detect a phenomenon that does not make sense, which in this case was that the outer regions of galaxies rotate so fast that they should fly apart. Theorists then come up with a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon, which here was dark matter, subatomic particles that have weight but do not generally interact with the rest of the universe except by their mass, which acts to hold the galaxies together. Observers than try to prove the hypothesis by finding these theorized particles.
When the particles are not found, the theorists begin to rethink their theories. Maybe dark matter does not exist. Maybe (as is mentioned near the end of the article) a rethinking of the nature of gravity itself might be necessary. Or possibly the unseen matter is not subatomic, but ordinary matter not yet detected.
If only the climate field would apply this basic scientific method to its work. There, scientists found that carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere. Some theorists posited an hypothesis that said that this increase might cause the climate to warm, and created numerous (almost a hundred) models to predict this warming. After more than thirty years, however, none of those models has successfully worked. The climate has not warmed as predicted, which suggests the hypothesis is flawed, and needs rethinking. Sadly, the leaders in the climate field refuse to do this rethinking. Instead, they appear willing to adjust and change their data to make it fit, sometimes in ways that are downright fraudulent.
This is not how science is done, and it is doing a terrible disservice to both science and society in general.