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KQµårk 死神 On January - 1 - 2010

The Higgs Boson aka the “God Particle” is the talk of the popular science community now because billions and billions of Euros were spend on the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) so that it might be discovered.  But maybe more elusive in a way is the search for the source of dark matter.  Dark matter is the “missing” matter that is theorized to account for 80% of the extra gravitational effects physicists observe in the universe.  One class of particles that is thought to impart these massive gravitational effects are called WIMPS (Weakly Interactive Massive Particles).  The problem is that while these particles are theorized to be relatively large they interact very little with other forms of matter, for example they have no electromagnetic interaction with other particles, that they cannot be detected directly.

Experiments to find these WIMPS all occur deep under ground to minimize the effect of other types of radiation.  WIMPs even they they are relatively large are thought to pass right through the earth without any resistance but physicists have developed exotic detectors to discern the presence of WIMPs.

Physicists think they might have kind of detected these WIMPS in an ongoing experiment.

Experiment Detects Particles of Dark Matter, Maybe

by Ron Cowen

Analyzing results of an experiment in a northern Minnesota mine, physicists report the possible detection of particles of dark matter — the proposed invisible material believed to account for about 80 percent of the mass of the universe. The physicists caution, however, that there’s about a one in four chance that ordinary subatomic particles, rather than dark matter, could account for the signals.

The experiment, called the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search, relies on 30 detectors made of germanium and silicon crystals cooled to just above absolute zero. The detectors record tiny vibrations imparted by a proposed type of dark matter called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. WIMPs streaming in from space would very rarely jostle the germanium nuclei, some 800 meters underground in the Soudan mine, generating a tiny amount of heat and slightly altering the charge on the detectors in a characteristic pattern.

About the only thing I promised myself this New Year is that I would spend more time going back to my scientific roots.  So expect at least one article a week that is science related.

Categories: Astronomy, Physics

Written by KQµårk 死神

My PlanetPOV contact is kquark@planetpov.com Proud Dem whose favorite hobby is cat herding. The GOP is not a political party, it's a personality disorder. Cancer, Heart Failure and Bush Survivor.

90 Responses so far.

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  1. Keramos says:

    There was an article within the last six months -- I believe it may have been in Scientific American or their sister publication the SA Mind -- wherein the human mind was said to contain material similar to the dark matter found throughout the universe. I cannot find the actual citation but if even if I’m wrong, this might still be an entertaining bit of scribbling.

    What is interesting to me is if true, this would further cement our human ties to the universe as a whole. There has been a lot of development in the quantum realm of physics and, as I understand it, some physicists believe that there are as many as eleven -- 11 -- actual dimensions. If we take time to be our fourth dimension, that leaves 7 more that we might exist in in one form or another.

    One of the interesting aspects of quantum physics is that time “cancels out” of the equations at this level. Objects can now appear in two places at one time and the very act of measuring the instantaneous location of a particle causes the measurement to become inaccurate (I don’t understand this one myself). The way this happens is when the particle is at least partially in some of the other dimensions.

    Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity allows one to calculate that time travel would be extraordinarily consumptive of energy, among other problems, and very hard to achieve. We can accept that in the framework that most of us use to view and understand the universe. What happens in the other 7 dimensions?

    For that matter, what exactly is the nature of time travel? Consider prophetic dreams or that sense of deja vu that we’ve all probably felt at some time or another. What if we’ve actually traveled in time and observed a future event? Can this not be a possible explanation for
    these occurrences?

    Time does not flow in a liner fashion, instead, it folds back on itself. Now, here’s a big leap, the human brain also contains many folds and its workings are not well understood. If we are connected to the universe via dark matter in our brain and we know that physical items can indeed be in two places simultaneously, is it unreasonable to conjecture that our dreaming can actually be considered a form of time travel? Perhaps the universe itself is a great big brain? Weird? Perhaps. However, it is fun to contemplate some aspects of physics that might relate more to the human condition instead of the conditions of and positions of quirky quarks.

  2. abby4ever says:

    KQ: I am over here on your Dark Matter thread, I came over here to tell you that I’ve never understood why a theory must be falsifiable to be any good, that I just Googled that and found this:

    From Yuksel.org, on Popper’s theory of falsifiability:

    “FALSIFIABILITY. A scientific hypothesis must provide a logical possibility to be refuted by a probable true observation statement. Therefore, according to Popper, falsifiability is a required characteristic for a scientific theory. Science evolves by shedding its falsified theories. Popper’s falsification model is similar to the notion of “natural selection”. The best theory survives…

    “Falsificationism encourages all kind of speculative theories, as long as they are stated clearly and precisely. The inadequate or the unfitting ones will be tossed away by examinations. A scientific theory can never be said that it is true, but it can be said that it is closer to the truth than its predecessors.”


    and what I want to know is whether what I found, above, is correct. You are the scientist around here, are you not? The thing is, the above still does not explain why a theory’s being falsifiable would make the theory itself any good. Weeding out false theories is one thing, and good; but suggesting that being able to be false is an essential property of any theory with any claim to power, is something else entirely.

    I am not sure, at all, that he is saying that but if he isn’t, what is he saying?


    • Keramos says:

      It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
      Arthur Conan Doyle

      Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/arthur_conan_doyle.html#ixzz1IkRhXDe3

      I’ve been working on a new product development where we’ve had some interesting preliminary results. We decide to push all the major comparative test work to some independent laboratories because of our perceived advantages of this product relative to the one we’re competing with. Why, to avoid missing something via attacking the critical product parameters relative to the application. To achieve this, we took preliminary data to select customers and had them review and suggest changes to the testing program. In so many words, we revamped our testing program to intentionally disprove the original results. That has been a good decision.

    • KQuark says:

      I think he may be saying that there must be a mechanism to falsify a theories for them to have validity. That’s one of the problems we are having now in some of the new theories in particle physics. Because the conditions are so rare (say close to the Big Bang) and even beyond our comprehension (like in multiple dimensions) where some of these particles, especially strings exist it is more and more difficult to test these theories. For example M-Theory with stings is a whole theory that scientists don’t have a clue how to test. So if you cannot test it the theory cannot be falsified and forever will be just academic.

      Scientific discovery is an evolutionary process where the strongest theories survive based on how well they are corroborated by experiments and observations. So in that case evidence disproving theories “falsification” is just as important as evidence supporting theories. We also learn things from theories that don’t prove to be entirely true. Also keep in mind for every theory there is evidence supporting it and contrary evidence.

      I had an argument with a troll once about theories and he tried to say there were scientific laws like Newtons law of gravity. There are no such things as scientific laws only theories. In fact I told him modern science is about half a dozen or so steps past Newtons theory of gravitation. There is one theory now that the basic force of gravity is not even a constant and changed over time upon creation of the universe. But of course this troll did not understand what I was talking about at all.

      I hope this answers your question.

      • abby4ever says:

        KQ: What good does it do to herd all the theories that can be falsified, together, and pick them off in a process of elimination in order to get at the one good one, if even that one must be falsifiable to be any good?

        Worse, what if you put a little theory together made up of, say, only 3 propositions and all of them were necessary truths? (Or arent there any of those, in science?) Good look falsifying that one.

        Yes, yes, I am confused (I must be); all I really want now is a drop-dead-gorgeous definition of ‘falsifiability’. By ‘drop-dead-gorgeous’ I mean one that is so clear that it cannot even possibly be misunderstood. Not even by me. That’s all I want.

        Thanks for taking the time to write such a long reply, it was interesting… and not at all condescending the way some explanations in science can be. I am glad you will have a science section here.

  3. kesmarn says:

    KQuark, finally I just got a chance to read your fine article on dark matter. Like many others I have little background in physics, but I find these ideas fascinating. The thing that always amazes me is the sheer power of imagination that one needs to have to be a physicist. I mean--you have to first imagine and hypothesize that such a thing as dark matter (which is totally counter-intuitive in our perception of the world) EXISTS. Then you have to develop instruments that can measure the tiniest vibrations (how do they DO that?) and set up conditions (underground??) that are right for the experiment. It boggles the mind.

    Finally--as our resident specialist in the “asking dumb questions” department, I have to ask: Is there any such thing as “dark energy”?

    • PepeLepew says:


      And it’s not the same as dark matter.

      I think I got that right.

      But maybe not.

    • nottoolate says:

      Yes, Kesmarn, there is a dark energy. Its name is Republican. But in the realm you’re talking about, try this Wiki. I don’t understand a word of it.


    • KQuark says:

      You are so right about imagination. That’s the problem our anti-science culture has made a major dent in our propensity to follow through with our most creative ideas. Having worked in R&D for over 20 years we don’t say it stands for Remorse and Disappointment for no reason. The vast majority of experiments fail and the point is to learn from the failures as much as the successes. The sea change I observed in the American research is that businesses have become so risk averse that they don’t know how to accept failure and hence they take fewer and fewer risks but also reap few rewards. I worked for European companies half my career and I cannot express how much forward thinking European companies are compared to American companies.

      • kesmarn says:

        I’ve heard others say the same thing, KQuark. Europeans seem to be able to take the long view of so many things: research, the health and welfare of the citizenry, culture, etc. American business is interested in the current fiscal quarter, today’s stock value, and in annihilating--rather than cooperating with--others in the same business. Instant gratification (cliche though it is) is the game here. Europeans seem overall to be more mature and rational than we are. Maybe having been the actual epicenter of two world wars (rather than ‘foreign lands’ where soldiers were stationed temporarily) forced a realization that we simply
        MUST co-exist, one way or another, or die. There’s a gravitas about their approach to life (which doesn’t imply that they don’t know how to have fun) that we could learn from.
        Those inevitable scientific failures that you mention are how we learn what DOESN’T work (I realize you know this all too well!). But in America failure is always a negative thing, “not an option” and grounds for getting demoted/fired, like a losing coach. Science (like life) is not, however, a &*%$#$% football game!

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Kes and KQ-- My son and I were having this conversation lately. We were talking about health care reform and I said I wondered how it was that Europe managed universal health care and we can

          • KQuark says:

            Europe is getting more and more immigrants and I think this is one reason they are electing center right government. Fear sells in politics.

            You have a great point because I think many American still look at an adequate safety net as something that will benefit minorities disproportionately when the largest social entitlements actual benefit people in an equal way. Before draconian welfare reform there may have been more of an imbalance but now no way.

        • KQuark says:

          Most Europeans I have met don’t understand why we make it so difficult for ourselves in this country because we have such a wealth of riches. They do in general have a much more progressive view of life than we do.

  4. nottoolate says:

    I am thinking of buying a Higgs-Boson to drive across the country, but am concerned about its rumored tendency to arrive in black holes. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Nobel physicist Leon Lederman coined the term God particle, he says because his publisher would not permit him to call his book the God-damned particle. This is the endlessly fascinating and frustrating challenge of scientific exploration. Sir Arthur Eddington wrote in 1935:

    • KQuark says:

      Excellent addition to the conversation. Great background on the God-damned particle. I also love the addition of a little culture into the mix.

      It’s funny how we envy what we cannot do. I’m just proficient in maths enough to understand the basics in particle physics but I have a mind that can visualize things quite well. Alas the English language has always eluded me and I have nothing but admiration for people that have real writing talent.

  5. abby4ever says:

    kq: don’t take my horsing around on this thread as evidence of my not taking your article seriously, as my belittling the importance of scientific inquiry, or, most especially, of my making fun of your beliefs in any way.

    I know next to nothing about dark matter and I much appreciate anyone trying to explain it to me.

    That said, I do get a little impatient with scientists and astonomers who belittle religious statements and then make scientific ones that, in form, anyway, are just like them.

    It could be said that scientists know for certain no more about dark matter than Christians know for certain about God, yet, like Christians, they talk as if they were there at the foundation of the world…in their case, the universe. It does amaze me how tolerant they are of their own speculative statements, often making them as if they are the proven fact of the day, and, at the same time, how intolerant they are of religious statements.

    I believe it was the analytic philosopher A.J. Ayer who, in a vicious attack on religious statements, was the first to call them ‘meaningless’. In my view, some of these scientists are just like him. Wanting to call meaningless anything that doesn’t fit in with their own, it has to be said, purely theoretical statements. Once a scientist gets into an area where he can’t prove the existence of something because of the unique nature of that something, be it dark matter or something else, he is in a very strange area indeed. For a scientist.

    Once there, and in my view, he loses his right to belittle others who can

    • KQuark says:

      I guess I invited the religious talk because I pointed out that the Higgs Boson is called the “God particle” by some but my intention was never to bring religion into this thread. Based on our current understanding science and religion are two totally separate things. Even though I personally think the two will merge in a way because I think scientific understand will help us explain our purpose in the world is no reason to conflate the issues now.

      I don’t look down on people of faith for a couple of reason one is respect and the other is I have no clue what the universe is all about so it’s presumptuous for me to say someone elses beliefs are wrong. On the flip side I don’t like the certaintist on either sides of the argument telling me what to think either. I think I just invented a word.

      • abby4ever says:

        KQ: I didn’t set out to introduce religious talk into this disussion about dark matter. I know that’s an entirely separate issue. In my comment just above, I just wanted to be sure that the playful-back-and-forth, quasi-religious chit-chat I had enaged in on your thread, with some others here and all of it quite spontaneous, was not taken by you as, again, ‘evidence of my not taking your article seriously, as my belittling the importance of scientific inquiry, or, most especially, of my making fun of your beliefs in any way.’ I want to do a short article on some things I said to you above but didn’t realize it until after I’d said to you: ‘Don’t know if you will agree with any of this’.

        (But first, one on gun-banning, I am just itching to do something on that…).

        (It wasn’t your ‘God Particle’ reference that set me off, it was the quote I used from AstronomyToday. (And I think you are not entirely serious with your “I guess I invited the religious talk because I pointed out that the Higgs Boson is called the

  6. whatsthatsound says:

    That’s it! I’ve decided I’m going to apply for a grant to prove that fairies are real! I can’t be sure (because I don’t have the VERRRRRRYY expensive equipment to verify it) but my research thus far indicates that they are composed of two types of particles, called “Tinkers” (Tiny Invisible Non-Kinetic Electron Repellers) and “Bells” (Boson Emitting Luminous Loops).

    Their “dust”, actually minute particles of energy left over from the Big Bang, accounts for either everything known to exist, or the stuff that gathers in the corners of your bedroom.

  7. whatsthatsound says:

    Here’s a stumper for you all.
    If you don’t believe in God Particles, does that make you an atheist or just an agnostic?

  8. whatsthatsound says:

    Personally, I think we’re all God Particles.

  9. escribacat says:

    Can anyone explain in layman’s terms What is a God Particle and why they call it that?

    • KQuark says:

      It’s just a massive (relatively speaking) elemental particle called the Higgs Boson and the only reason some people call it the God particle is because it was theorized to exist right after the Big Bang, hence the name. The whole idea of the LHC is to create a micro environment with conditions similar to those right after that big bang. The reason the Higgs Boson is important to particle physicists is because it would make up the last particle in a theory called the “Standard Model” but usually discoveries like this lead to new theories.

    • abby4ever says:

      Wish I understood what you guys are talking about. (I always perk up when I see the word or name ‘God’.) If I tried to join in I would not know what I am talking about.

      I’m on another topic with Emerald…although, to be honest, I don’t know what I’m talking about with that , either.

      • PepeLepew says:

        I dunno, but it takes a staggering amount of power in a collider so big that they had to put it in two countries and the atoms are going near the speed of light when they smash together and they smash together so hard that they’re re-creating conditions like the first nanoseconds of the universe.

        It sounds all so tragically cool.

      • PatsyT says:

        Abby, you are a sweetie! I think we can only admit that we all have so much to learn and will never know it all.
        The journey of discovery is fascinating.

        • abby4ever says:

          From AstronomyToday:


          “Dark matter is non-luminous matter, that cannot be directly detected by observing any form of electromagnetic radiation (light), but whose existence is suggested because of the effects of its gravity on the rotation rate of galaxies and the presence of clusters of galaxies…

          “Astronomers and cosmologists know that dark matter exists but as yet do not know what it is composed of, or how much of it there actually is…”

          Ok. on the one hand, its existence is only suggested; on the other, it is known. (To exist.)

          Make up your mind. I don’t mean you Patsy, I mean the guy who wrote this.

          This is early-stage theory, and, like all early-stage theories, it may or may or may not be true.

    • PepeLepew says:

      Because it’s not meant to be messed with!!! 😀

    • PatsyT says:

      AdLib, can you check on this ?

  10. PepeLepew says:

    True story. My daughter loves the Large Hadron Collider and the “Higgs Boson,” mostly because National Geographic and Discover Magazine recently did big spreads on them. I truly think she has no idea what the Higgs Boson is, but thinks it sounds very cool (as do quarks with names like “strange” and “charmed.”) while the LHC looks very cool. She checked science.com every day for a while reading the updates about it when they fired it back up.
    My girlfriend said she doesn’t like the LHC because it sounds, in her words, “spooky.” To which I asked, “what’s spooky about it?” To which she replied, “I dunno, it seems like they’re messing with things that aren’t meant to be messed with.”
    This led to a heated discussion about that’s the whole nature of discovery and science. She normally isn’t anti-science she is definitely very, very bright, but what struck me was how she had an almost mystical view of the “Higgs Boson” (And maybe my daughter has a mystical view of it, too, something unknown and hidden. I dunno.)
    It was just interesting to see two such polar reactions to the LHC.

  11. AdLib says:

    KQ, thanks for this brain tickling article, very pleased to hear that more will be on the way.

    I think that the only path for our society to pull out of the quicksand that is pulling it down is for science to provide a discovery or breakthrough that lifts us out of it, primarily with a solution on energy generation.

    For example, a big breakthrough on transforming solar energy into a global power source would reshape the world, especially third world nations. If oil was no longer “needed”, how would that impact what goes on in the Middle East and wars around the world?

    How many new technological advances, applications and industries would be created if there was a cheap and unlimited supply of energy?

    Changing society through politics is limited and gradual, as we’ve discovered. Science however, is what has transformed society most substantially in recent history and I am hoping it may do so again in this positive way in the near future.

    So get to work on this, will you?!

    • KQuark says:

      I’m holding out for plasma induced fusion. If you remember richmisty he’s working on that project now.

      We’d be fools to not recognize that our backward slide as a society is directly related in a cause and effect way with our failings to keep up technologically starting in most American classrooms.

      I view human progress as a long string with a weight at the bottom. The tip of the string is the state of the art and the heavy weight at the bottom is the level of ignorance in a society. The point is the more ignorance that exists the more it holds back progress for all because the string can be stretched only so far.

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Very nice analogy, KQ! I like that! You mentioned richmisty…where is he and why is he not on the Planet? He was one of the brightest and best that I hoped would show up here.

        The dumbing down of America…one of my pet peeves! I see college-age students apply for a job at my shop and they are incapable of even filling out a job application properly! They cannot capitalize or punctuate correctly; some cannot write an intelligible sentence. And don’t get me started about spelling or grammar! It is amazing to me that they have actually been given a high school diploma.

        So, how in hell are these kids going to be the “future” of our country? How can we expect scientific breakthroughs from those who cannot solve simple math problems without a calculator?

        IMHO, it is way past time to spend some of that money that we continue to pour down a hole in the sand for fossil fuels and needless wars to educate our young! Our priorities need realignment!

  12. KevenSeven says:

    And you wonder why Sarah451 thinks that people and dinosaurs coexisted…

  13. whatsthatsound says:

    This is with all due (and sincere) respect to KQuark, and is merely offered as counterpoint.
    I would like to quote the brilliant William Irwin Thompson, from his book, “Coming Into Being”

    “The trouble is that when we move into the world of big science, we encounter a weird world of superstitious beliefs in which all kinds of stuff we never see is said to exist. High priests tell us that quarks and bosons exist, and we have to take their word for it. Something that only exists as a nanosecond blip on a meter is said to be more real than actual human experience of artistic and religious enlightenment experienced by yogis, saints and artists in many different cultures throughout the ages. When the high priests of physics tell us about their world of invisible particles, things begin to get pretty weird. Let me give you chapter and verse from Paul Davies’ Other Worlds: Space, Superspace, and the Quantum Universe. “If accepted completely literally, it (the quantum theory) leads to the conclusion that the world of our experience -- the universe we actually perceive -- is not the only universe. Co-existing alongside it are countless billions of others, some almost identical to ours, others wildly different, inhabited by myriads of near carbon-copies of ourselves in a gigantic, multifoliate reality of parallel worlds.”
    So Big Science gives us permission to believe in parallel worlds and other dimensions -- as long as these beliefs and ideas have absolutely nothing to do with our experience and have absolutely no moral or aesthetic implications for how we live our lives.”

    • KQuark says:

      Science is all about what theories and equations best explain the physical universe based on observations and experimentation.

      Any extra implications I attribute to the prevailing scientific theories are just thought experiments that help me explore my place in the universe. But you cannot deny since Einstein’s theories through quantum mechanics and M-Theory prevailing scientific theories have become less and less intuitive then the typical array of our human experiences. I see no need to downgrade the importance of scientific discovery just because we do not know the full implications of what we discover today. When we do limit our understanding based on what we think the universal should be like we are usual wrong.

      Frankly I think the author is elegantly explaining a typical human centered view of the universe we have heard throughout the centuries.

      BTW I do very much appreciate different perspectives and it does not offend me that people don’t have the same view of science that I do. Anyway it’s still not going to deter me from boring you with these articles.

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Not boring at all, K! I love these discussions. Even though the science is most times over my head, I continue to learn from you all and that can only be a good thing. To me, a good philosophical discussion is icing on the cake!

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Actually, KQ, I think when Thompson wrote this, it was directed more towards the Hitchens/Dawkins types and their acolytes who rush in to delegitimize every spiritual experience, no matter how profound, because there is “no (scientific) evidence”. You, on the other hand, I have always found to be open minded and gracious when considering the matters of another person’s spiritual views.

        • KQuark says:

          Ah in that context the comments make allot more sense to me.

          I’m quite the opposite and my logical side does not accept the completely null argument that there is no purpose in the universe. In fact I naively go too far and think some day far beyond my lifetime that some smarter species that evolves from humans or other species will find the answers for those questions with the help of science.

          Franky we are so infantile in our understanding of the universe that I cringe when I hear anyone say with any level of certainty that they have close to all the answers whether they accept the supreme being or null hypothesis. Ironically our lack of understanding invites both beliefs in a different way.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        “Anyway it

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