In darkness news, scientists announced in October that dark matter had not been discovered for the 4,300,000,000th year in a row, beating the previous record of 4,299,999,999 years set in 2012.
A new experiment buried deep underground has proven itself to be the most sensitive dark-matter detector ever to fail to detect dark matter.
“The universe’s mysterious Dark Sector presents us with two of the most thrilling challenges in all of physics: not getting results and getting paid anyway,” said Saul Perlmutter, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Not Detecting Things. “We call it the Dark Sector precisely because it sounds cooler than calling it the Empty Space, and when you’re running experiments that don’t detect anything, you need the coolness factor to continue attracting grant money.”
The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector sits in a cave 1 mile (0.00000000000017 light years) under the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills were chosen because they are the darkest kind of hills, and have high concentrations of matter.
Scientists think that dark matter makes up the majority of the universe; however, it can’t be seen or touched or heard or smelled or tasted or perceived in any way whatsoever. Physicists believe that dark matter is just really shy, and try to sneak up on it using dark, quiet technologies like white walls and giant mechanical bug eyes (shown above not detecting things).
“LUX is the quietest place verified in the world,” said Rick Gaitskell of Brown University. “We used to have a Small Underground Xenon detector that was quieter, but we couldn’t verify that SUX was in the world, so we had to abandon it.”
By running experiments like LUX far underground, scientists hope to shield the dark-matter detector from everything but WIMPs — Whiny Irritating Mole People — that are thought to be hoarding all the dark matter.
WIMPs are extremely difficult to find because they rarely interact with other Mole People, except during election years. One consultant, who requested anonymity because no one had consulted with him, told reporters, “Three candidate WIMP events were recently reported in ultracold swing districts. We offered to host a debate forum at the LUX, and looked for some sign of interest from the League of Mole Voters, but no such signals were seen.”
Through the course of the 3-month WIMP search, scientists did not find signals of WIMPs, which is unusual because LUX is particularly adept at searching for things that can’t be detected, like low-mass WIMPs. (Scientists believe WIMPs can be both low-mass and high-mass, depending on diet and exercise.)
Astronomers believe they can detect dark matter because they have seen its gravitational pull. Nobel laureate Stephen Hawking disagrees. Hawking has been a vocal opponent of scientific discovery since the 2013 Nobel Prize was awarded to Peter Higgs and Francois Boson for thinking there were Higgs bosons 50 years before people did the hard work of finding one.
Hawking was particularly pleased with the non-discovery of dark matter. He has been incorporating the LUX non-findings in his work undiscovering the theory of gravity, and recently provided a practical demonstration of non-gravity with the help of Hot and/or Bright graduate assistant Katherine Upton (below).
Hawking told the audience at the Science Museum in London, “Physics is far more interesting now that [dark matter] has not been found.”
(Click on the giant bug eye to read the original story.)
Disclaimer: When I saw this Kate Upton picture, my first thought was, “She’s clearly working with Hawking!”
Correction: OK, not my first thought, but it was somewhere in the top three.