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Science & Technology

Major project fails to detect dark matter

By T.K. Randall
July 21, 2016 · Comment icon 52 comments

The Large Underground Xenon detector. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Gigaparsec
Scientists have shut down their state-of-the-art dark matter detector after it failed to find anything.
Despite accounting for up to four-fifths of the mass of the entire universe, the enigmatic and unseen substance known as dark matter continues to remain as elusive as ever.

This week the researchers behind a Ł7 million ultra-sensitive dark matter detector were left scratching their heads after the system failed to find even the remotest trace of it.

Known as The Large Underground Xenon (Lux), the detector sits inside a large tank of 72,000 gallons of high purity water which is itself situated within a former gold mine in South Dakota.

The experiment hoped to pick up evidence of dark matter in the form of small flashes of light produced when the dark matter particles collided with xenon atoms.
"With this final result from the 2014 to 2016 search, the scientists of the Lux Collaboration have pushed the sensitivity of the instrument to a final performance level that is four times better than the original project goals," said Professor Rick Gaitskell from Brown University.

"It would have been marvellous if the improved sensitivity had also delivered a clear dark matter signal. However, what we have observed is consistent with background alone."

Not all is lost however as the team is now planning to build another detector - one that will be 70 times more sensitive than the current one.

Perhaps it won't be long before the nature and origins of dark matter will finally be revealed.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (52)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #43 Posted by danielost 7 years ago
except pseudo- science and science-fiction have lead to new products.
Comment icon #44 Posted by danielost 7 years ago
no, both are religions.  science shouldn't be, but in some eyes it is treated as a religion.  not mine I use it as it should be used as a tool.
Comment icon #45 Posted by Emma_Acid 7 years ago
Totally missing the point.
Comment icon #46 Posted by Emma_Acid 7 years ago
Science is not a religion, you can try to convince yourself of that over and over again, but that doesn't make it a fact.
Comment icon #47 Posted by Hugh 7 years ago
I was reading through the link you gave about quantum electrodynamics trying to understand things more. There was an interesting quote in a Conclusions section: _________________________ "Within the above framework physicists were then able to calculate to a high degree of accuracy some of the properties of electrons, such as the anomalous magnetic dipole moment. However, as Feynman points out, it fails totally to explain why particles such as the electron have the masses they do. "There is no theory that adequately explains these numbers. We use the numbers in all our theories, but we don't u... [More]
Comment icon #48 Posted by Frank Merton 7 years ago
Null results are important, and shows science being good science.  It is religion that rationalizes null results.  In this case the positive effect was to remove certain theories from consideration, narrowing the field of places to look. Obviously the people involved would have dearly loved to find something, but they are good scientists and accept the world as it is, not as they would like it to be.
Comment icon #49 Posted by sepulchrave 7 years ago
Yes, it is very strange. There are some alternative theories. It may also be possible that we are currently in a ``special'' location in the Universe - all of our theories are built on the assumption that the Universe would look roughly the same from any position. This is a very reasonable assumption, but it may not be the case. It is difficult to build a cosmological model because we have only one perspective on the Universe. Yes, understanding the masses of fundamental particles is a big problem. The confirmation of the Higgs boson helps a bit, but mostly just shifts the problem... now inste... [More]
Comment icon #50 Posted by Hugh 7 years ago
Thank you for the links and explanations Sepulchrave. All fascinating reading.
Comment icon #51 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
Thanks for the conversation H and S, it is very interesting.  Question for anyone. Doesn't the non-detection of Dark Matter in this experiment tell us something as well, like what it can't be or we would have detected it?
Comment icon #52 Posted by sepulchrave 7 years ago
Yes. The wiki page for weakly interacting massive particles (the WIMPs that LUX was trying to detect) suggests that the null result from LUX, plus the recent results from the LHC, suggest that the concept of WIMPs as part of supersymmetry are false. The LUX website has some slides that shows the current detection limits, basically if a WIMP exists its coordinates in terms of (mass, interaction strength) must fall below the detection curve. The wiki on WIMPs shows a figure of a similar curve, but it seems outdated - the new LUX data basically excludes the entire blue SUSY area (SUSY = supersymm... [More]

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