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A New Theory of Dark Matter

Posted in Science Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on November 6, 2010 by telescoper

Since this week has seen the release of a number of interesting bits of news about particle physics and cosmology, I thought I’d take the chance to keep posting about science by way of a distraction from the interminable discussion of  funding and related political issues. This time I thought I’d share some of my own theoretical work, which I firmly believe offers a viable alternative to current orthodox thinking in the realm of astroparticle physics.

As you probably know, one of the most important outstanding problems in this domain is to find an explanation of dark matter, a component of the matter distribution of the Universe which is inferred to exist from its effects on the growth of cosmic structures but which is yet to be detected by direct observations. We know that this dark matter can’t exist in the form of familiar atomic material (made of protons, neutrons and electrons) so it must comrpise some other form of matter. Many candidates exist, but the currently favoured model is that it is made of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) arising in particle physics theories involving supersymmetry, perhaps the fermionic counterpart of the gauge bosons of the standard model, e.g. the photino (the supersymmetric counterpart of the photon).

However, extensive recent research has revealed that this standard explanation may in fact be incorrect and circumstantial evidence is mounting that supports a  radically different scenario. I am now in a position to reveal the basics of a new theory that accounts for many recent observations in terms of an alternative hypothesis, which entails the existence of a brand new particle called the k-Mason.

Standard WIMP dark matter comprises very massive particles which move very slowly, hence the term Cold Dark Matter or CDM, for short.  This means that CDM forms structures very rapidly and efficiently, in a hierarchical or “bottom-up” fashion. This idea is at the core of the standard “concordance” cosmological model.

However, the k-Mason is known to travel such huge distances at such high velocity in random directions between its (rare) encounters that it not only inhibits the self-organisation of other matter, but actively dissipates structures once they have been formed. All this means that structure formation is strongly suppressed and can only happen in a “top-down” manner, which is extremely inefficient as it can only form small-scale structures through the collapse of larger ones. Astronomers have compiled a huge amount of evidence of this effect in recent years, lending support to the existence of the k-Mason as a dominant influence  (which is of course entirely at odds with the whole idea of concordance).

Other studies also provide pretty convincing quantitative evidence of the large mean free path of the k-Mason.

Although this new scenario does seem to account very naturally for the observational evidence of  collapse and fragmentation gathered by UK astronomers since 2007, there are still many issues to be resolved before it can be developed into a fully testable theory. One difficulty is that the k-Mason appears to be surprisingly stable, whereas most theories suggest it would have vanished long before the present epoch. On the other hand, it has also been suggested that, rather than simply decaying, the k-Mason may instead  transform into some other species with similar properties; suggestions for alternative candidates emerging from the decay of the  k-Mason  are actively being sought and it is hoped this process will be observed definitively within the next 18 months or so.

However the biggest problem facing this idea is the extreme difficulty of  detecting the k-Mason  at experimental or observational facilities. Some scientists have claimed evidence of its appearance at various laboratories run by the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), as well as at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, but these claims remain controversial: none has really stood up to detailed scrutiny and all lack independent confirmation from reliable witnesses. Likewise there is little proof of the presence of k-Mason at any ground-based astronomical observatory, which has led many astronomers to conclude that  only observations done from space will remain viable in the longer term.

So, in summary, while the k-Mason remains a hypothetical entity, it does furnish a plausible theory that accounts, in a broad-brush sense, for many disparate phenomena. I urge particle physicists, astronomers and cosmologists to join forces in the hunt for this enigmatic object.

NOTE ADDED IN PROOF: The hypothetical “k-Mason” referred to in this article is not to be confused with the better-known “strange” particle the  k-Meson.


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