Friday, June 26, 2009

Dark Matter

It is staggering how much we, as human beings, do not know about our world; let alone our universe. We know it's limitless and ever-expanding and the Big Bang Theory, respectfully still a theory, is our most plausible conception as to "how it all started." But one of many things that still remains a mystery is dark matter. Scientists believe it was instrumental in helping to form the universe, but its physical properties and other characteristics are unknown. So, on Tuesday the 23rd, scientists at Case Western Reserve University, Brown University, and several other collaborators are building an underground science lab where, in a 300-kilogram tank filled with liquid xenon, they hope to find dark matter.

In general, the experiment hopes to detect the particles, which are not themselves directly perceptible, by measuring their gravitational effects on other particles. The liquid xenon, in as few words as possible, is a medium for detecting weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPS, such as dark matter. If the xenon nucleus collides with dark matter, it would create a unique burst of energy, which would distinguish it from similar events like cosmic rays. Even more importantly, though, it would constrain dark matter's properties and provide scientists more information about its structure and capabilities. The universities are looking to Congress to fund the project, which will cost about $550 million. The underground lab is located in Lead, South Dakota, in the former site of the Homestake Gold Mine. The deeper labs will be built starting in 2012 and finished by 2016.

Bookmark and Share

No comments: