If you ever dreamed of making that next-to-impossible discovery that will change the world, here is your chance. Perhaps it is not too late to give thought to one of the biggest mysteries in science – what is dark matter?
Results from large new experiments, like the colossal LUX experiment built into a defunct mining cave in South Dakota, have yet again reported null results. These and other large physics experiments occupy engineers, computer programmers and physicists for many years. In the case of the LUX experiment there is the construction of the tanks to hold 370 kg of liquid Xenon plus integration of the sensors and detectors which are designed to detect the occasional expected ‘hit’ of a dark matter particle.
Unfortunately, such experiments are not yielding any kind of new particle that we can ‘hold in our hand’ that fits the dark matter description. Despite all the effort, there is just no hard evidence for what is this particle we call dark matter which dominates over the ordinary matter that you and I and everything we ever touched or saw is made out of.
At the risk of sounding a bit like character Ben Kanobi’s description of “The Force” in the movie Star Wars, it appears that dark matter may surround us and help to bind the universe together. So what is it?
Astronomers first discovered dark matter. Well, that is to say that we first detected its presence indirectly by observing that the way stars orbit galaxies is different from the way planets orbit the Sun. The only explanation we could come up with is that there is a lot of extra matter in space that is hidden which has the effect of changing the way the stars orbit galaxies.
Yet try as we may neither astronomers looking out into space nor physicists here on Earth has made the award-winning discovery. Is dark matter real? If so, what is it? Will we ever be able to hold dark matter in our hands? Science is a beautiful endeavor in that every one of us, whether trained for half our lives in physics or not, can contribute to solving such problems. What do you think dark matter is?