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New theory closes in on the character of dark matter

Strong gravitational lensing as observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in Abell 1689 indicates the presence of dark matter.
Strong gravitational lensing as observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in Abell 1689 indicates the presence of dark matter.
NASA. Public domain as a work of NASA.

Normal matter is constantly in flux. Electrons, protons, and neutrons are constantly undergoing collisions with subatomic particles that convert each elementary particle into another. Likewise, the subatomic particles are constantly converted into different species by collision with other species. This basic tenet of quantum mechanics is the inspiration for a new concept of the composition of dark matter presented by Mikhail Medvedev, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, at the University of Kansas website on Sept. 4, 2014.

Medvedev used computer simulations and more than two million hours of supercomputer time to develop a concept of dark matter that overcomes the known limitations of the Lambda-Cold-Dark-Matter model. The Lambda-CDM model is the most prominent concept of dark matter presently being investigated but it has not produced a laboratory method of creating dark matter. The Lambda-CDM model has not allowed direct detection of dark matter in space either. Dark matter is known to exist because it exerts a gravitational effect on light and objects that have mass.

The new theory proposes that dark matter consists of neutralinos, axions, and sterile neutrinos. The subatomic particles are considered to be “flavor-mixed” like quarks. The idea is that the existence of the particles and the masses of the particles that make up dark matter are elusive because they are changing into other particles at a rate that is much faster than matter that can be seen. The collisions that cause a change of one particle into another are called quantum evaporation.

The fact that the flavor-mixed particles can have different masses at the same time may give astrophysicists the tools needed to detect dark matter in the lab and in space. The Lambda-CDM model assumes that dark matter is a cold state of matter in which collisions between particles do not occur or occur very slowly. The new study solves some of the problems that have prevented the direct detection or creation of dark matter.