Quantum entanglement is popularly believed to give rise to spooky action at a distance, refuting Einstein. I’ll say why I think this popular belief is false. But my main goal is to explain how the issue arises and why experts continue to disagree about it. Whoever turns out to be right, Einstein’s most cited paper provoked others to a deeper examination. This has revealed something surprising about the world. In a second quantum revolution we are beginning to reap the benefits of this discovery.
Scientists have long known that dark matter is out there, silently orchestrating the universe’s movement and structure. But what exactly is dark matter made of? And what does a dark matter particle look like? That remains a mystery, with experiment after experiment coming up empty handed in the quest to detect these elusive particles.
With some luck, that may be about to change. With ten times the sensitivity of previous detectors, three recently funded dark matter experiments have scientists crossing their fingers that they may finally glimpse these long-sought particles. In recent conversations with The Kavli Foundation, scientists working on these new experiments expressed hope that they would catch dark matter, but also agreed that, in the end, their success or failure is up to nature to decide.
“Nature is being coy,” said Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano, an associate professor of physics at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research who works on one of the three new experiments. “There’s something we just don’t understand about the internal structure of how the universe works. When theorists write down all the ways dark matter might interact with our particles, they find, for the simplest models, that we should have seen it already. So even though we haven’t found it yet, there’s a message there, one that we’re trying to decode now.”
The first of the new experiments, called the Axion Dark Matter eXperiment, searches for a theoretical type of dark matter particle called the axion. ADMX seeks evidence of this extremely lightweight particle converting into a photon in the experiment’s high magnetic field. By slowly varying the magnetic field, the detector hunts for one axion mass at a time.
“We’ve demonstrated that we have the tools necessary to see axions,” said Gray Rybka, research assistant professor of physics at the University of Washington who co-leads the ADMX Gen 2 experiment. “With Gen2, we’re buying a very, very powerful refrigerator that will arrive very shortly. Once it arrives, we’ll be able to scan very, very quickly and we feel we’ll have a much better chance of finding axions – if they’re out there.”
The two other new experiments look for a different type of theoretical dark matter called the WIMP. Short for Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, the WIMP interacts with our world very weakly and very rarely. The Large Underground Xenon, or LUX, experiment, which began in 2009, is now getting an upgrade to increase its sensitivity to heavier WIMPs. Meanwhile, the Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search collaboration, which has looked for the signal of a lightweight WIMP barreling through its detector since 2013, is in the process of finalizing the design for a new experiment to be located in Canada.
“In a way it’s like looking for gold,” said Figueroa-Feliciano, a member of the SuperCDMS experiment. “Harry has his pan and he’s looking for gold in a deep pond, and we’re looking in a slightly shallower pond, and Gray’s a little upstream, looking in his own spot. We don’t know who’s going to find gold because we don’t know where it is.”
Rybka agreed, but added the more optimistic perspective that it’s also possible that all three experiments will find dark matter. “There’s nothing that would require dark matter to be made of just one type of particle except us hoping that it’s that simple,” he said. “Dark matter could be one-third axions, one-third heavy WIMPs and one-third light WIMPs. That would be perfectly allowable from everything we’ve seen.”
Yet the nugget of gold for which all three experiments search is a very valuable one. And even though the search is difficult, all three scientists agreed that it’s worthwhile because glimpsing dark matter would reveal insight into a large portion of the universe.
“We’re all looking and somewhere, maybe even now, there’s a little bit of data that will cause someone to have an ‘Ah ha!’ moment,” said Harry Nelson, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and science lead for the LUX upgrade, called LUX-ZEPLIN. “This idea that there’s something out there that we can’t sense yet is one of those things that sends chills down my spine.”
Effective February 1, 2015 my book “Redshift Key to Cosmology”, which will be used in topical discussions within this blog in addition to the ASP preprint “The Nature of the Redshift” has been published and is available for purchase. For buyers who would like to provide some support to Lowell Observatory, one of the great private astronomical institutions where my professional work began, the book (only the paperback version) may be purchased or ordered from the Starry Skies Shop at Lowell Observatory (US only). Contact Diana Weintraub at email@example.com or (928) 233-3206. A catalog featuring the book with a brief description is currently being completed and will soon be available on the Lowell Observatory website, at which time a link will be provided to access the online catalog.
For persons in or passing through Tucson, Arizona the book may be purchased at (but not ordered from) AlphaGraphics stores located at 7306 N. Oracle Rd., or 4811 E Grant Rd. The 460 page book may also be ordered through Amazon with standard domestic or international shipping. Paperback is $40, hardcover $99. Illustrations and basic descriptions are provided.
An ANU mathematician has developed a new way to uncover simple patterns that might underlie apparently complex systems, such as clouds, cracks in materials or the movement of the stockmarket.
“Fractal Geometry is a new branch of mathematics that describes the world as it is, rather than acting as though it’s made of straight lines and spheres. There are very few straight lines and circles in nature. The shapes you find in nature are rough.” said Michael Barnsley, Professor of Mathematics at ANU.
“Fractal Fourier analysis provides a method to break complicated signals up into a set of well understood building blocks, in a similar way to how conventional Fourier analysis breaks signals up into a set of smooth sine waves,” said Professor Michael Barnsley, who who presented his work at the New Directions in Fractal Geometry conference.
“There are terrific advances to be made by breaking loose from the thrall of continuity and differentiability…The body is full of repeating branch structures – the breathing system, the blood supply system, the arrangement of skin cells, even cancer is a fractal.”
The Leonids are a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle. The Leonids get their name from the location of their radiant in the constellation Leo: the meteors appear to radiate from that point in the sky. (Credit: Wiki)
The Leonid meteor shower is forecasted to peak Monday afternoon (Nov. 17) in the U.S. eastern time zone, so stargazers in the United States are advised to look to the skies between midnight and dawn on Monday and Tuesday morning for the best view, astronomers say. This year, the Leonid meteor shower should treat skywatchers to beween 10 and 15 meteors per hour, NASA meteor expert Bill Cook, head of the Meteoroid Environment Office at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, told Space.com. For some meteor showers, that’s considered a decent rate.
NASA’s live stream will include a sky view from a telescope at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. That stream will begin on Monday, Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. EST (0030 GMT Tuesday) and will continue until sunrise on Tuesday Nov. 18.
The Slooh live stream will begin on Monday, Nov. 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST (0100 GMT Tuesday) and will include more than just shots of the sky: Slooh will also broadcast audio of the “ionization sounds” created by the meteors. As the meteors streak through the sky, they briefly ionize the atmosphere. For a few seconds, the ionized region reflects short-wavelength radio waves, creating short blips and beeps of sound. Slooh’s broadcast will also include interviews with astronomers. (Credit: Calla Cofield and Spacce.com)
The waning-crescent moon will increase chances of a better view of the spectacle, according to NASA. This type of moon will create skies that are dark enough to view the meteors, which are characteristically bright and colorful.
“Widespread cloud cover across the eastern third of the U.S. will make it difficult to see the meteor shower Monday before dawn, except perhaps in central and south Florida. Skies should be much clearer Tuesday morning, though it may take until late at night for New England to clear out, and there will be clouds in south Florida and in the lake-effect snow belts of the Great Lakes. Clear skies will be the rule across the central and western U.S. both mornings, with only a few minor exceptions,” said Digital Meteorologist, Nick Wiltgen, from weather.com. (Credit: Carolyn Williams, weather.com)