In DepthPhysics

In search for unseen matter, physicists turn to dark sector

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Science  24 Mar 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6331, pp. 1251-1252
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6331.1251

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Summary

Scientists hunting unseen dark matter are looking deeper into the shadows. With searches for a favored dark matter candidate—weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs)—coming up empty, physicists are now turning to the hypothetical "dark sector": an entire shadow realm of hidden particles. This week, physicists will meet at the University of Maryland in College Park for a workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to mull ideas for a possible $10 million short-term experiment that would complement the agency's current WIMP search and other dark-matter efforts. And many researchers believe DOE should focus on the dark sector. Whereas WIMPs would be a single massive particle tacked onto the standard model of known particles, the dark sector would consist of a slew of lighter particles and forces—such as a dark version of electromagnetism—with tenuous connections to known particles. To spot dark-sector particles, physicists will have to rethink their detection techniques, but the new experiment could be small and cheap, physicists say. Still, DOE officials warn that the $10 million isn't a sure thing.