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Now that they've identified the Higgs boson, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider have set their sights on an even more elusive target.
All around us is dark matter and dark energy—the invisible stuff that binds the galaxy together, but which no one has been able to directly detect. "We know for sure there's a dark world, and there's more energy in it than there is in ours," said LianTao Wang, a University of Chicago professor of physics who studies how to find signals in large particle accelerators like the LHC.
Wang - Scientists - University - UChicago-affiliated - Fermilab
Wang, along with scientists from the University and UChicago-affiliated Fermilab, think they may be able to lead us to its tracks; in a paper published April 3 in Physical Review Letters, they laid out an innovative method for stalking dark matter in the LHC by exploiting a potential particle's slightly slower speed.
While the dark world makes up more than 95 percent of the universe, scientists only know it exists from its effects—like a poltergeist you can only see when it pushes something off a shelf. For example, we know there's dark matter because we can see gravity acting on it—it helps keep our galaxies from flying apart.
Theorists - Kind - Particle - Matter - Particles
Theorists think there's one particular kind of dark particle that only occasionally interacts with normal matter. It would be heavier and longer-lived than other known particles, with a lifetime up to one tenth of a second. A few times in a decade, researchers believe, this particle can get caught up in the collisions of protons that the LHC is constantly creating and measuring.
"One particularly interesting possibility is that these long-lived dark particles are coupled to the Higgs boson in some fashion—that the Higgs is actually a portal to the dark world," said Wang, referring to the last holdout particle in physicists' grand theory of how...
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