On The Heels of The Ghost: A Modern Glimpse Into The Search for Dark Matter

Upon reviewing the reports and charts, something was amiss and this house is the source.

The Ghost Hunter lets out a slow visible exhale. Maybe this time there will be a confirmation.

The door creaks as he enters the main landing of the dilapidated house. He considers the stairs to his right: the basement. Although eager, he decides against it and makes his way up to the living room.

A musty couch and 3-legged side table greet him. Old curtains allow enough light in to consider the dusty haze that has settled on the ancient gramophone across from him.

Haven’t seen one of these in ages.

The thought passes and he begins setting up his equipment. He places a small scintillation detector in the middle of the room and hooks it up to his laptop where he loads his monitoring software. He takes out a small vial, uncaps it, and pours its liquid contents into the crucible section of the detector. He flips the switch to ON.

Then, he waits. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour. His eyes refocus as his stomach begins to rumble.

He considers his monitoring software: 0 events.

He sighs. Another cold lead.

He packs up his detector and his laptop, gingerly reclaiming the liquid. He heads to the door of the living room and takes one last look.

The room was exactly as before, but with the gramophone’s needle poised above a record.

The needle lowers and begins to play a tune.

A couch, a record player, a laptop, etc.; it’s all made of matter and yet all this matter within the universe only amounts to about 5% of the whole. The rest is comprised of yet unknown phenomena: dark energy (68%) and dark matter (27%). It’s the concept that hooked me on physics and science altogether. The name might have something to do with it, it’s just so mysterious. What is this darkness? Why is it so impactful and yet so elusive?

The difference between our speculative Ghost Hunter and the dark matter physicist is the answer to the question: “Is something there?”. The answer is “Yes”. We know this for a couple of big reasons:

  1. Galaxies do not contain enough gravity from regular matter to account for their existence and their behaviour, notably their excess of edge rotation compelling stars to orbit with a shorter period than ones closer in.
  2. Gravitational lensing describes how light bends around sources of matter. Though, it can be seen in places where it shouldn’t occur, like bending around seemingly empty regions of space.

These characteristics hint at what makes dark matter so hard to detect. Regular matter is made up of baryons: neutrons, protons, and electrons. Dark matter, we believe, is not. In fact, dark matter does not emit, reflect, or absorb EM radiation at all. A ghostly presence that reveals itself in some indirect way, but ultimately cannot be measured. This is what has kept The Ghost one step ahead ever since it was first theorized in the 1930s. It’s as if it’s is doing everything to say “Hey, I’m here! Look at me.” Yet here we are, staring right through it.

Measuring something that can’t be measured has been the pursuit since the beginning. In the past, we simply didn’t have the capability, but we are edging ever closer. New techniques and experiments have surfaced which attempt to capture it. They follow one of two methodologies of searching: indirect, or direct. The former hopes to detect phenomena that arise as a result of dark matter interactions, the latter aims to observe dark matter itself. The potential for either means uncovering physics that lives beyond the realm of The Standard Model.

Next time, we’ll explore some current experiments to see exactly how they’re hunting for The Ghost. Stay tuned.

Happy Halloween & Happy Dark Matter Day

2 thoughts on “On The Heels of The Ghost: A Modern Glimpse Into The Search for Dark Matter

  1. This is a very interesting topic, especially for someone who believes in god and the “unseen”.

    Can’t wait to read more keep it up!


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