In DepthParticle Physics

Crunch time for dark matter hunt

Science  25 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6280, pp. 1376-1377
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6280.1376

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This month, in a cavernous laboratory 1.4 kilometers beneath Italy's Apennine Mountains, physicists will begin filling a cylindrical tank with frigid liquid xenon. The tank is the heart of XENON 1 Ton (XENON1T), the biggest detector so far to hunt for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs): hypothetical particles that may make up dark matter. But even as XENON1T gears up to begin taking data, researchers are starting to have doubts about the concept of WIMPs. A few years ago, when the biggest WIMP detector weighed a few kilograms, most thought a 1-ton experiment would either find WIMPs or stick a dagger in the idea. But generations of ever bigger detectors have come up empty, and physicists are rethinking the argument for WIMPs and what it might take to find them. They have bigger detectors in the works and are laying plans for the ultimate WIMP detector. But even avid dark matter hunters aren't sure that giant detector is worth pursuing.