A new dark matter detector has failed to detect any dark matter after its first three months of operation.


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The uncertainty of science: A new dark matter detector has failed to detect any dark matter after its first three months of operation.

Buried about a mile underground in a repurposed South Dakota gold mine, the LUX experiment searches for signs of dark matter particles colliding with the atoms in a vat of liquid xenon. During its first three months of operation, the detector found no such signals whatsoever. “We looked hard for these dark matter particles and we didn’t see anything,” says physicist Rick Gaitskell of Brown University, co-spokesperson for the LUX experiment. The results, presented at a seminar today and submitted to Physical Review Letters for publication, rule out a number of possible masses and characteristics for the particles that make up dark matter. The null result also conflicts with earlier experiments that had reported possible signals of dark matter.

This experiment has not proven that dark matter does not exist. It merely has narrowed significantly the kinds of particles that dark matter could be made of. That the results also contradict evidence from other detectors, however, leaves this specific area of science particularly uncertain.

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4 comments

  • JWing

    Someone please inform me on the topic of whether “neutrinos” are considered a “real” subatomic particle or just a “theoretical” quantum mechanics particle? Here in South Dakota we have a new federally funded deep underground (formerly the deepest gold mine in the US) lab set up for the study of neutrinos and dark matter in Lead, SD called the Homestake Mine Lab.

  • I’ve been to the Homestake Mine about sixteen years ago to write an article about the search for neutrinos. Quite interesting. This new dark matter detector is also in the Homestake Mine, and is part of an effort to find a use for the mine. Pork, but maybe worthwhile pork.

    As for neutrinoes, they are real subatomic particles, not a theory. In fact, the neutrino experiment in the Homestake Mine provided one of the crucial pieces of evidence proving the particle’s existence.

  • JWing

    Thanks Robert…I should have known that you’ve already been to this mine. Cheers!

  • It was a fascinating experience getting a tour of the gold mine operation, which unfortunately shut down only a few years later. My only regret was that I couldn’t see more, and that I was never able to write a story about it.

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