After three years of searching for invisible dark matter inside a mile-deep hole in South Dakota, scientists emerged to announce that they had found nothing.
The announcement came at an international dark matter conference in the UK yesterday. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment searched the Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, South Dakota for dark matter and neutrinos, as well as weakly interacting massive particles known as “WIMPs.” Scientists know that dark matter exists; it’s effects on gravity can be seen in the rotation of galaxies and bend of light as it travels through the universe. They just haven’t directly observed it, yet.
Here’s a statement about the search that’ll mess with you for a while: “If the WIMP idea is correct, billions of these particles pass through your hand every second, and also through the Earth and everything on it.”
Rick Gaitskell, a spokesperson for the experiment, assures that the quest isn’t over. “LUX was racing over the last three years to get first evidence for a dark matter signal. We will now have to wait and see if the new run this year at the [Large Hadron Collider] will show evidence of dark matter particles, or if the discovery occurs in the next generation of larger direct detectors.” Being able to study dark matter directly would answer fundamental questions about our universe.