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The dark-matter rumour mill

Any WIMPs in here?

By Michael Banks

You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the blogs (except this one of course).

Yesterday, the rumour mill was in overdrive as the Resonaances blog said a paper was due to be released a week on Friday in the journal Nature about a possible detection of dark matter.

What constitutes dark matter, which is thought to make up around 90% of the material in the universe, is a hot topic of research these days with researchers vying to be the first to provide direct evidence of it. If true, it would perhaps be the discovery of the year.

The new rumours are based on the latest results from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS located in the Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota, which is searching for weakly interacting massive particles or WIMPs — a prime candidate for dark matter.

We were a little suspicious of the rumours as Nature is published on Thursday with embargos for news items about its papers on Wednesday evening at 6pm GMT. However, the paper could have been an advanced online publication in Nature or perhaps was due to be published in Science, which is published every Friday.

The rumours were also backed by a series of talks being given by various members of the CDMS team at labs such as CERN on 18 December – the same date as the paper would be published.

However, Leslie Sage, a senior editor at Nature, wrote to Resonaances saying there was no such Nature paper and the rumours were unfounded.

I contacted Priscilla Cushman from the CDMS collaboration and based at the University of Minnesota, who confirmed to me that indeed they have not submitted a paper to Nature.

So why are they presenting the results at different labs on the same day? “Since there is no major conference at this time in which to present them we are coordinating our talks,” Cushman told

CDMS researchers will, however, be publishing an arXiv paper on the morning of Friday 18 December about their latest results, so we will have to wait until then.

Cushman says the group were quite taken aback by the rumours going around. “It is certainly an interesting social phenomena [sic],” says Cushman. But ultimately it was “lots of smoke and not much fire”.

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  1. Doru Coarna

    Just avoid any rumour reading SUBPHYSICS. Trust me!

  2. John Duffield

    I’ve got a better rumour than that: dark matter is space itself.
    Think about it. Space has its vacuum energy. So E=mc² tells us it has a mass equivalence, just as the energy of a photon in a mirrored box will increase the mass of that system. And space is inhomogeneous, just like Einstein said:
    “According to this theory the metrical qualities of the continuum of space-time differ in the environment of different points of space-time, and are partly conditioned by the matter existing outside of the territory under consideration. This space-time variability of the reciprocal relations of the standards of space and time, or, perhaps, the recognition of the fact that “empty space” in its physical relation is neither homogeneous nor isotropic, compelling us to describe its state by ten functions (the gravitation potentials gμν)..”
    That’s Einstein saying a gravitational field is inhomogeneous space, caused by the concentration of energy tied up as the matter of a planet. But that isn’t the only cause of inhomogeneous space, because space expands between the galaxies but not within, like the raisins-in-the-cake analogy. So galaxies are surrounded by a shell of inhomogeneous space, hence flat galactic rotation curves.
    Forget about WIMPS and axions, and all those other things that those guys down a mine haven’t found for twenty years. Dark matter is ubiquitous, and outweighs ordinary matter by a factor of five. Instead, check out and note where it says:
    “The largest part of dark matter which does not interact with electromagnetic radiation is not only “dark” but also by definition utterly transparent; in recognition of this, it has been referred to as transparent matter by some astronomers”.
    Now take a look at the clear night sky. Look at the gaps between the stars. That’s space. It’s dark, it is utterly transparent, and there’s a heck of a lot of it. There it is, dark matter. It’s been under your nose all this time, hidden in plain view.
    Trust me!

  3. Don Walker

    John, in short, is saying “aether’s back.”

  4. John Duffield

    Not me Don, Einstein. That Einstein quote was from his Leyden Address in 1920. The title is “Ether and the Theory of Relativity”.
    Besides, what do you think the Higgs Field actually is? See
    “From the point of view of cosmology, the vacuum appears to have an energy density, which is sometimes called ‘dark energy’ or the ‘cosmological constant’, responsible for the observed accelerated expansion of the universe. From a particle physics viewpoint, the vacuum is permeated by a ‘Higgs Field’…”
    Einstein talked about the stress-energy tensor. Stress is like pressure. Space has an innate pressure. Things under pressure tend to expand. But if parts of space can’t expand, the result is inhomogeneous space. And like Einstein said, that’s what a gravitational field is.
    I do wish more of these dark matter articles mentioned alternatives like TeVeS, STVG, MOND.

  5. Nathan

    John, the argument that you use has already been looked at in the case of dark energy. The idea that vacuum energy provides a energy density of free space was an idea for an explaination for the cosmological constant but it doesn’t work, the values of the cc predicted by this method are far larger than observed, so there is a discrepancy that we haven’t accounted for yet. Sorry, I would put up a few references for this but im in a rush!

  6. John Duffield

    IMHO the strong force is the discrepancy, Nathan. It holds the expansion back. In simple terms: a compressed ball of gas expands very quickly, but a compressed stress-ball expands much more slowly. The lower rate of expansion makes it appear as if there’s less energy in the latter. That stress ball has an elastic quality that we find in the bag model of quark confinement. Since the strong force is “fundamental”, I’d say it’s unwise to imagine that it disappears in entirety following proton-antiproton annihilation. Something holds the resultant particles together, be they short-lived mesons or muons, or electrons or photons.

  7. Carl F. Enz

    I notice that some mention that “Dark Energy” is Hypothetical,But as Physicist Yoichiro Nambu Calculated that for every 10 Billion Particles of ANTI-MATTER,there is 10 Billion Particles of MATTER PLUS-ONE,This slight Excess allows the UNIVERSE to remain INTACT.this tells me the Universe is in Perfect Balance,since MATTER and ANTI-MATTER MUST be kept apart or they will Annihilate each other.Thus there must be some FORCE keeping these apart.Dark Energy is a Logical conclusion.

  8. John Duffield

    Nathan: perhaps LIGO can clarify. See and note where it says “The space-time ripples cause the distance measured by a light beam to change as the gravitational wave passes by”. The expected difference in the length of the two arms is not expected to be permanent. That means something “pulls things back”. Also see and
    Carl: nobody is suggesting that dark energy is hypothetical. The issue is “the vacuum catastophe”, where the numbers are way out. See I’m afraid there’s no mysterious force keeping matter and antimatter apart. An electron and a positron are attracted to one another, then they annihilate.

  9. Carl F. Enz

    John Duffield;Thank you for your excellent references,as a layman
    I now have plenty to research on.The Universe is Awesome evidence of forces,as I notice about 2 years ago Cosmologist discovered 2 Black Holes gyrateing around each other.Saying if the EARTH was anywhere near this force it would be suck into it in 2 seconds! That’s why Einstein said “I can’t believe GOD plays DICE with the cosmos.Which tells me GOD plays a role in this “For every Effect theres a CAUSE”.Dark Energy and Matter is a new revelation for me.

  10. Doug

    Just a quick thought.
    What if every galaxy is slightly polarized,
    by charge. The outside has a different charge from the inside.
    Both gravity and electric force fall off as the square of the distance.
    How could one refute this?
    How could one detect this?
    The local field would have to be small so that the Stark effect is small.
    We would have to be orbiting the galaxy along a geodesic of both gravity and electric field so that special relativity holds for our ‘inertial frame of reference’. This may not be possible for the size of the dark matter effect and should be easy to calculate (I have not).
    Has this been discussed (and rejected)?


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