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article imagePhysicists: Earth may be breaking through dark matter walls

By Elizabeth Cunningham Perkins     Jan 20, 2013 in Science
University of Victoria physicists concluded earth may be traveling through dark matter walls, on its way through a universe of force fields dividing dark matter bubbles created after the big bang, and detecting this should be possible with today's tools.
New Scientist reported the new approach the Canadian team is proposing for detecting the hypothetically ubiquitous, yet still mysterious, dark matter.
According to NASA, based upon astrophysical observations of mass clumping throughout space, cosmologists have long theorized most physical matter is of a mysterious type termed invisible dark matter, interacting with everyday, visible matter through its gravitational effects. Dark matter, possibly linked to dark energy, another hypothetical phenomenon, remains mysterious because none has ever been measured experimentally.
A widely accepted explanation, New Scientist reported, describes dark matter as consisting of "weakly interacting massive particles" (or WIMPs).
But scientists should have been able to detect and measure WIMPs interacting with normal matter through the weak nuclear force by now, according to the University of Victoria team. Yet years of WIMP searches have failed to discover any.
Team leader Maxim Pospelov explained, "So far nothing is found, and I feel like it's time to broaden the scope of our search. What we propose is to look for some other signatures."
Pospelov and his colleagues are theorizing that the hot early universe's exotic, randomly diverse force field cooled and expanded, freezing some dark matter within structures called domain walls, each with distinct field values. Pospelov speculates that such a domain patchwork would look like concentrations of mass -- the way dark matter appears to astrophysicists now -- and, if these domains have widths about several hundred times the distance between the sun and earth, we should crash through one every few years without noticing.
But magnetometers (that measure magnetic fields), although unaffected by the fields inside domains, would detect the change when a dark matter wall was breached.
Pospelov maintains that a network of five or more highly sensitive magnetometers spread worldwide is required for the project because the readings of a single magnetometer would be drowned out by local noise.
Pospelov's colleagues in California and Poland have built magnetometers sensitive enough detect bizarre planetary-scale magnetic shifts unequivocally and help test the Victoria University team's theory.
Detecting dark matter this way would not account for all the universe's dark matter, or confirm (or debunk) the existence of WIMPs, and a researcher from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics expressed doubt Pospelov's experiment would succeed, yet favored trying out the new method, New Scientist reported.
In related news, late last year Science Daily reported other dark matter and WIMP research:
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Lead, South Dakota buried a large tank-like device almost a mile deep, the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment they claim is sensitive and protected enough to succeed, and the National Academy of Sciences and the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics brought together a colloquium of particle physicists, astrophysicists and cosmologists in Chicago to examine and assess the latest dark matter findings and theories and generate new cross-disciplinary projects.
More about Dark matter, dark matter and quantum theory, Physics, Theoretical physics, Big bang
 
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