Scientists indirectly detect the existence of dark matter

| April 4, 2013
Science! By Apr. 4, 2013 8:28 am

Dark matter

We all know what dark matter is believed to be: a never-seen, barely explainable material that holds the universe together like some kind of super-powered glue. Imagine the black coloring used to create the negative space in the iconic art of a Sin City comic. If the universe was a Sin City comic, that black coloring would be dark matter.

Fortunately for Frank Miller, negative space on a sheet of paper’s 2D plane is easy to observe. Unfortunately for scientists, negative space in a 3D space that doesn’t have any discernible features is fairly difficult to observe. Now, however, scientists are reporting that with the help of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) — a cosmic ray detector mounted on the International Space Station — they have found evidence of the existence of dark matter.

The AMS was sent into space around two years ago, and just today, scientists reported that it found an excess of positively charged subatomic particles, otherwise known as positrons, floating around in space. The energies of the positrons are thought to have been created when dark matter particles collided with and subsequently destroy one another. If true, this would mean the positrons are the result of the actions of dark matter, which in turn would mean scientists have observed dark matter doing things. Though we still haven’t directly observed dark matter, observing it doing things is now the closest we’ve come to confirming its existence.

Think of it like this: Your roommate has a completely opposite daily schedule as you do, and you never see her because of this. However, someone is doing the dishes and taking out the garbage every other day, and it isn’t you. So, it’s a good bet that your roommate exists.

Of course, if we did confirm the existence of dark matter, that doesn’t mean we can suddenly load it into guns and turn life into a cool sci-fi movie. However, it does mean that we’ll know what holds the universe together, which will ultimately better our knowledge of how the universe was made, and what exactly inhabits it.

For now, the data is being researched by CERN, and more definitive results are expected down the pipeline within in the coming months.

Now read: NASA finds dark matter will eventually rip the universe apart


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