Dark Matter Verified?

on January 2, 2010

BBC News: “The First Glimpse of Dark Matter?Dark matter: it’s mysterious, elusive (if it does exist), controversial—and now verified?

Three weeks ago, we wrote, “Creationists have no inherent (i.e., biblical) reason to stand for or against the existence of dark matter. But as it is, dark matter is largely a speculation driven by big bang beliefs.” Our words were in comment on a news item that warned us that an upcoming announcement pertaining to the discovery of dark matter would be “of marginal statistical significance.”

"Dark matter is largely a speculation driven by big bang beliefs.”

That announcement has since been made. Physicists working at the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search, housed in an underground laboratory in Minnesota, are using highly sensitive equipment to try to detect the energy given off by “weakly interacting massive particles.” WIMPs, as they are known, are thought by many physicists to be the constituent subatomic particles of dark matter. They believe the only way to detect dark matter is to look for the energy released by WIMPs as they are repelled from “ordinary” matter.

The CDMS physicists have now found two such signatures in the form of minuscule heat deposits in the laboratory detectors. The discoveries are thus “consistent with” what scientists would find if dark matter actually does exist. But the problem, as scientist Pier Oddone explains, is that “while this result is consistent with dark matter, it is also consistent with backgrounds”—that is, contamination of the detectors from foreign particles. Hence the earlier “warning” article’s claim that the discovery was of marginal statistical significance. That also explains the caution of Brown University physicist Richard Gaitskell, who said that “nobody should be attempting to say that this is evidence” for dark matter.

Regardless, the CDMS team is quickly upgrading its equipment for enhanced sensitivity, which prompted team member Joseph Lykken to claim that “next year [2010] will be the year of dark matter.” If it is, creationists will need no special explanations for dark matter’s existence; nonetheless, we remain cautious at this point.

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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