After 20-month search period, a key dark matter detection experiment has officially come up empty-handed, casting doubt on the existence of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPS), which have been far and away the leading explanation for one of the biggest mysteries in astrophysics. This is according to new results from South Dakota’s Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector presented Thursday at the Identification of Dark Matter Conference (IDM 2016) in Sheffield, England.
By Michael Byrne | MOTHERBOARD
“With this final result from the 2014-2016 search, the scientists of the LUX Collaboration have pushed the sensitivity of the instrument to a final performance level that is four times better than the original project goals,“ offered Rick Gaitskell, professor of physics at Brown University and co-spokesperson for the LUX experiment, in a statement. „It would have been marvelous if the improved sensitivity had also delivered a clear dark matter signal. However, what we have observed is consistent with background alone.”
To be clear, this doesn’t say anything about the existence of dark matter itself, just one of many possible explanations for dark matter. And, given that dark matter accounts for some 85 percent of all of the mass in the universe and is responsible for guiding and nurturing the development of galaxies, this is an explanation that’s ultimately at the very heart of how the universe wound up as we see it today. Far from a cosmic curiosity, dark matter and its surrounding mystery explains why we’re even here.