Friday, March 02, 2007

Dark matter

It is a fascinating concept: a century old model of the universe and its origins is all in place, except that it requires something that doesn't exist - dark matter.
We all know that most of the universe is space. Atoms are full of it (or rather, empty of it) and since atoms compose everything, we are space. Held together with electromagnetic energy.

Yet something must give the universe most of its mass, in order to fulfil fundamental laws of physics. This is predicted to be dark matter, and in the 1960s a British physicist, Peter Higgs, predicted the existence of a particle thought to give all other particles their mass. The particle has one of those enigmatic, scientific names, the Higgs boson.

If the Higgs exists, it would fill a worrying gap in the standard model, the notional structure for describing the fundamental nature of matter. But if the Higgs doesn't will be back to the drawing board.

A recent article in New Scientist gives more information on current research, including a tantalising glimpse of the future as a result of recent experiments:

If the blips in the debris of the Tevatron particle smasher really are signs of the Higgs boson then it's not what we expected. It might mean that it's time to replace the standard model with a more complex picture of the universe.
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