New Generation of Dark Matter Experiments Gear Up to Search for Elusive Particle

by Emily Toomey/

This spring, ten tons of liquid xenon will be pumped into a tank nestled nearly a mile underground at the heart of a former gold mine in South Dakota. With this giant vat of chemicals, scientists hope to detect the historically undetectable, a mysterious substance that makes up more than 85 percent of all mass in our universe: dark matter. “One of the annoying features of dark matter is we have really no idea [what it is],” says Murdock Gilchriese, project director of this experiment, known as LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ). “We know it exists, but as a particle and what its mass is, there’s a huge range.”

In the heart of a new dark matter detector, LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), a 5-foot-tall detector filled with 10 tons of liquid xenon, will search for hypothetical dark matter particles to produce flashes of light as they traverse the detector. (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

LZ is one of three major experiments funded by the DOE and NSF that aim to directly detect dark matter, a goal that has tantalized scientists for over thirty years. While past experiments such as LUX, the predecessor to LZ, came up short, this next generation of projects hopes to tackle the challenge using systems with unprecedented scale and sensitivity.

“You could say we’re the world’s best at finding nothing. I mean, people have said that and so far, it’s actually true,” Gilchriese says. “It very well may be that people spend ten years…


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  1. With due respect, the scientists are having a hard time finding the dark matter. The explanation is breathtakingly simple. They have finally figured out that the dark matter is most likely found in their own asses, but as they chase their own butts, the selfsame butts keep moving out of the way!!! But there is hope. One scientist at UCA has developed a method, which he claims, with the help of various equations, that will help him shove his head so far up his own ass that he will be able to observe the said particles with his own eyes! We wait with great excitement the results of his labours, and can’t wait to read his report and his analects!

  2. Dark Matter was originally imagined as a way to square Newton’s equation, v2~m (where v= the orbital velocity of an object, squared, and is proportional, to the gravitational force=m, exerted by the mass about which it orbits), with the “observed motions” of stars orbiting in galactic spirals. The two did not match up. There didn’t appear to be enough galactic mass to hold the stars(especially those furthest out on galactic spirals) in an orbit. Bear in mind, the Sun is orbiting the Milky Way at a velocity of about 700,000 MPH. This was known as the Galaxy Rotation Problem. The dark matter was originally proposed as strictly non-luminous matter. It has continued and morphed into something completely theoretical with the insertion of the particle physics crowd. Still waiting!

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