Potential breakthrough in dark matter search revealed

Dark Matter - a matter of life and death
Dark Matter - a matter of life and death

The long and arduous search for dark matter may have come to fruition this week, after scientists revealed that a number of events have occurred which indicate that the elusive particle – which acts as glue which keep the world and everything around it together – is indeed present and has been found.

Although there is a 23 per cent chance that what was found was random background noise, deep within the confines of a disused Soudan iron ore mine in Minnesota the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) found two events happening that have the characteristics of weakly-interacting massive particles (WIMPs), the last place that's thought to house dark matter.

WIMP-ing out

The signals intercepted by the scientists have yet to be verified, but if it turns out to be dark matter, then the discovery will be one of the biggest for science in decades.

"In the new data set there are indeed two events seen with characteristics consistent with those expected from WIMPs," explained those working on the CDMS. "However, there is also a chance that both events could be due to background particles.

"Scientists have a strict set of criteria for determining whether a new discovery has been made, in essence that the ratio of signal to background events must be large enough that there is no reasonable doubt."

The statement continued: "Typically, there must be less than one chance in a thousand of the signal being due to background. In this case, a signal of about five events would have met those criteria. We estimate that there is about a one in four chance to have seen two background events, so we can make no claim to have discovered WIMPs."

So, what would the discovery mean? Essentially it will bring about a better understanding of how the universe was made, and will mean that scientists who have had their heart dead set on the theory of dark matter will be able to do one big collective: "I told you so!"

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.