back to article Dark matter: Good news, everyone! We've found ... NOTHING AT ALL

The most sensitive dark-matter detector ever built has failed to detect any dark matter. It's not yet a problem for the instrument, the LUX Dark Matter Collaboration that The Register described here and here. What it might mean is, in an echo of the kind of iterative narrowing-down that characterised the hunt for the Higgs- …

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  1. Dave 52

    What do scientists do if dark matter can't be found? Are there any alternative models of the universe that explain the missing mass?

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Meh

      perhaps dark matter/energy is cosmological philogiston

      There still may be unknown physics, the Tevatrons final runs had an interesting energy anomaly, but the steady no-shows of dark matter suggest that Carmelli should be considered. His cosmology calculations requires no missing anything while matching quite well with observations, recent checks on fundamental constants being stable and relativity. Just cope with a 5 dimensional universe. Oh, and dropping a philosophical assumption that the universe is homogeneous.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: perhaps dark matter/energy is cosmological philogiston

        There's also MOND (Modified Netwonian Dynamics): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOND

        1. Primus Secundus Tertius

          Re: perhaps dark matter/energy is cosmological philogiston

          Netwonian?

          Is that a Google conspiracy against physics?

        2. magindville

          Re: perhaps dark matter/energy is cosmological philogiston

          I think you meant to say "Modified Newtonian Dianetics", but that means you have to believe in L Ron Hubbard. Hey, maybe that's what they're doing at CERN... it's just a Large Head Ron Collider

      2. Chemist

        Re: perhaps dark matter/energy is cosmological philogiston

        As a chemist can I say phlogiston not philogiston unless you're really trying to incorporate philosophy into it

    2. Richard 126

      Electrical model of the universe

      There is an electrical model of the universe that doesn't require dark matter. It assumes that gravity is relatively unimportant in holding the universe together and that the main forces are electrical / electo-magnetic. Hence no need for the missing mass required by the gravity model. The predictions of the electric universe theory seem to be true but it is regarded as very much a fringe science as everyone KNOWS that the universe is held together by gravity. This latest finding throws a little more support towards the electric universe model and away from traditional astrophysics.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Electrical model of the universe

        There is an electrical model of the universe that doesn't require dark matter.

        Unfortunately it resides in crank universe and it firmly intends to stay there. It seems to be pretty much at odds with things that one can see in a telescope. In a positivist science, this is generally a Bad Thing. I won't even mention websites promoting it that look like something out of geocities. I think it's mainly made up by electrical engineers afraid of an Einstein mass/energy tensor letting fly.

        1. sabroni Silver badge
          Unhappy

          @ Destroy all monsters

          >> Unfortunately it resides in crank universe and it firmly intends to stay there. <<

          >> I won't even mention websites promoting it that look like something out of geocities. <<

          Ah, this would be the name calling and style criticising bit of the "scientific debate". Good to see so many upvotes for this fantastic bit of reasoning.....

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: @ Destroy all monsters

            Ah, this would be the name calling and style criticising bit of the "scientific debate". Good to see so many upvotes for this fantastic bit of reasoning.....

            Thank you for the expectation that I would have enough time and energy to seriously dissect an ALTERNATE EXPLANATION OF THE MATRIXLIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING in El Reg reader's forum.

            People interested in learning more about the (non) controversy are invited to apply Google to the problem but to stay within the bounds of what common sense tells them about the websites they visit. There are also "books".

            In particular, the following information may be of help when you encounter Tim The Enchanter and his Electric Staff:

            Martin Gardner’s Signs of a Crank

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @ Destroy all monsters

              Well you're operating on a particularly low level today, now aren't you?

              "Thank you for the expectation that I would have enough time and energy to seriously dissect an ALTERNATE EXPLANATION OF THE MATRIXLIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING in El Reg reader's forum."

              If you're going to whine about downvotes and criticism, don't post.

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                Paris Hilton

                Re: @ Destroy all monsters

                I whined about downvotes and criticism?

                Metaphysically related, how can I whine about downvotes and criticism if I must not post?

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ Destroy all monsters

              > People interested in learning more about the (non) controversy are invited to apply Google to the problem but to stay within the bounds of what common sense tells them about the websites they visit.

              I think Einstein would suggest that "common sense" is a very bad indicator as to what is right and what is wrong.

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                Headmaster

                Re: @ Destroy all monsters

                > I think Einstein would suggest that "common sense" is a very bad indicator as to what is right and what is wrong.

                I would think your would find out that this would not be so.

                Also, I meant "use common sense to detect crankery" not "use common sense to detect new physics". The former is generally >> easier than the latter.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @ Destroy all monsters

                  > Also, I meant "use common sense to detect crankery" not "use common sense to detect new physics". The former is generally >> easier than the latter.

                  You might want to suspend your skepticism for a moment and realise that a lot of what Einstein suggested initially was branded as "crank" science. If you used "common sense" to evaluate quantum physics, you would judge it "crank" and "fringe".

                  There is only one truth in science and that is the one that is demonstrated by repeatable experimental evidence.

                  Pardon me if we don't take your word for it.

              2. Tom 13

                Re: I think Einstein would suggest

                Interesting that you should bring him up in this exact context. There is some degree to which this search for the missing mass is his grandchild. If he hadn't added a cosmological constant to maintain a steady state universe to his theory, I don't think we'd see quite as much concern in this area. Yes, he did eventually recognize the mistake and name it his greatest error. But it does illuminate how tenaciously one can hold onto prejudices in science.

                At this point I'm willing to say the missing mass is the modern equivalent of the search for the ether was in his day. Yes, that does leave us with a deeper problem. But maybe to solve the deeper problem we have to accept that.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ Destroy all monsters

              The carthorse called "Destroy All Monsters" has one gear, labelled "ad hominem" The sign of an intellectually uncertain position.

              Yes, there are cranks aplenty in fringe physics but your haste to label them all cranks and not address the arguments is very revealing, Sir.

          2. TheOtherHobbes

            Re: @ Destroy all monsters

            >Ah, this would be the name calling and style criticising bit of the "scientific debate".

            No, it would because most supporters are people (...I'm being polite) who wouldn't know peer review if had an a in it and grew on trees, and have no idea what a Lagrangian is.

            Hand-waving and storytelling are Not Science. They may pass the time and be entertaining, but you're gonna need some unexpected testable predictions if you want to be taken seriously, and a clean formalism would be a nice bonus.

            None of the above has ever appeared from EU corner. Nor is it likely to.

            The best you'll get is Argument by Analogy and some A level maths. Which are Not Science Either.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Electrical model of the universe

          It looks pretty interesting to me. It seems to be based on a plasma universe, which recognizes that 99.999% of the visible universe is in the plasma state. It is also known that plasma respond strongly to electromagnetic forces, which explains how the solar wind can accelerate away from the sun's gravitation field, and cosmic jets can even accelerate away from the immense gravitational fields of a black hole.

        3. magindville

          Re: Electrical model of the universe

          Let me guess... the electricity came from nothing.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Electrical model of the universe

        No it doesn't. It just suggests WiMPs may not exist or if they do are different than what was suggested. Or that the dark matter if it exists may be caused by Q-Balls, Axions or MaCHOs.

        Electric model / Plasma model cosmology was seriously fringe even when it was postulated far more so now given many of the questions it sought to answer were answered in other ways.

        "Hence no need for the missing mass required by the gravity model." -> Yeah but a need to find awful lotta amps.

        As for "everyone KNOWS that the universe is held together by gravity.", well yeah I think we are pretty certain, the solar system certainly seems to be, good use of caps to suggest condescension though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Plasma model of the universe

          "As for "everyone KNOWS that the universe is held together by gravity.", well yeah I think we are pretty certain, the solar system certainly seems to be, good use of caps to suggest condescension though."

          The planets in the solar system are not plasma, but solid objects, which are affected by gravity, Plasma is influenced strongly by electromagnetic forces to the extent that gravity takes a back seat. Since 99.999% of the visible universe is in the plasma state, then 99.999% of the visible universe is more strongly affected by electromagnetic forces.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Plasma model of the universe

            "The planets in the solar system are not plasma, but solid objects, which are affected by gravity,"

            Or if you are feeling ultra-skeptical, consider the interplanetary probes that we have sent up. They were definitely not electrically charged when launched. If they became so during flight, it is a pretty awesome coincidence that their subsequent unplanned trajectories exactly match the ones that were engineered for them on the basis of a gravitational model of the solar system.

            To pick up where Destroy All Monsters left off, anyone seriously advocating a cosmology with electromagnetism taking the place of gravity is so far beyond the reach of reason that we frankly don't care if they are offended. It's not that we don't have time to knock down your theories with hard evidence. (I've just taken the time to knock down an electrical model of the solar system, for example.) It's that we don't have time to deal with the inevitable come-back, where they completely ignore the evidence against them, advance a new hypothesis, and start shouting about how science is just a religion and a grand conspiracy to hide the truth to protect their reputations.

            1. David Glasgow

              Re: Plasma model of the universe

              "... Exactly match the ones that were engineered for them on the basis of a gravitational model of the solar system."

              Well, that's not strictly correct, is it?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Electrical model of the universe

          > As for "everyone KNOWS that the universe is held together by gravity.", well yeah I think we are pretty certain, the solar system certainly seems to be, good use of caps to suggest condescension though.

          Well everyone "knows" that matter is held together by gravity. However, the universe is not necessarily made of matter.

      3. magindville

        Re: Electrical model of the universe

        oh... so you're the guy from Logan's Run?? I think his name was "Logan" but I could have the last two letters of his name wrong.

    3. Turtle

      Follow The Pioneers!

      "What do scientists do if dark matter can't be found?"

      They change the acronym to "NIMPs" - NON-Interacting Massive Particles - and spend the rest of their careers talking, writing, theorizing, and generally philosophizing about it, with no fear of ever being contradicted by experiment. String theorists have done any amount of pioneering work along these lines.

      1. streaky

        Re: Follow The Pioneers!

        "with no fear of ever being contradicted by experiment"

        You're confusing science and religion there. Not for nothing but yes there are alternative theories - and there's also the possibility that we could just be measuring it wrong or missing some basic fact about lets say, gravity.

        When stuff goes "wrong" it's always the most exciting time in science because it gives people a chance to posit bold, entirely new theories. Imagine if you will if LHC had disproven the existence of the Higgs what sort of world we'd be living in today.

      2. Oh Homer
        Holmes

        Re: Follow The Pioneers!

        "Dark" Matter Theory: In a Nutshell

        x + y = z

        x = 1

        y = 1

        z = 3

        1 + 1 = 3 ?

        Conclusion:

        There is "d", the unknown, which we'll nickname "Dark Matter", such that:

        x + y + d = z

        However, "d" does not appear to exist, and we can't find it!

        At no point will we ever consider the possibility that our estimates of "x", "y" or "z" were simply wrong, or even that the underlying theory itself is wrong. Instead we'll promote the idea that an unknown value in a theoretical equation, which we've branded "Dark Matter", is in fact a real substance that we just haven't found yet.

        Welcome to that field of "research" known as the fantasy sciences.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Follow The Pioneers!

          "At no point will we ever consider the possibility that our estimates of "x", "y" or "z" were simply wrong, or even that the underlying theory itself is wrong."

          What makes you think that? It's not that they haven't considered such things, it's that dark matter is the simplest category of possibilities, and includes the possibility of x>1 as well as introducing a d. Dark matter isn't entirely instead of "the possibility that our estimates of "x", "y" or "z" were simply wrong, or even that the underlying theory itself is wrong." Do bear in mind that the very ideas of WIMPs and axions as dark matter rely on the Standard Model being incomplete, with some theories being incorrect in some such sense.

          1. Oh Homer
            Boffin

            "Incomplete theory"

            Playing with "incomplete theories" is more like a religion than science.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: "Incomplete theory"

              An odd criticism. All true scientific theories are by definition incomplete. And only God could write a complete theory of any thing as a complete theory of a given thing requires complete knowledge of everything which could conceivably have an effect on it.

              Granted, this is a philosophical argument not a scientific one. But I think it rather important as it gets at the heart of the scientific method and what science is.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge
      Coat

      Even darker matter ;-)

      1. Professor Clifton Shallot

        "Even darker matter"

        Hotblack matter? Would that prove that the whole fabric of the space-time continuum is not merely curved, it is in fact totally bent?

    5. Steve T
      Facepalm

      They've made a basic error. They are looking for light being emitted from collisions between WIMPS and zenon.

      They should be looking for dark being emitted.

    6. plrndl

      @Dave 52

      What do scientists do if dark matter can't be found?

      They'll have to come up with another story to "help them secure further Department of Energy funding".

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: @Dave 52 .... and so beautifully simple it works so very well ....

        .... up to the point it be discovered by smarter folk. Then the Fun and Shenanigans and Greater IntelAIgent Games Begin for things are never to be the same again. And that be Future Progress Deliverable Today for Everyone Tomorrow with IT Takeovers and MainStreamMedia Makeovers in Reported Alternative Intelligent News Stories ..... Legitimate Registered Thin Client Tall Tales*

        What do scientists do if dark matter can't be found?

        They'll have to come up with another story to "help them secure further Department of Energy funding". .... plrndl Posted Thursday 31st October 2013 11:31 GMT

        Quite so, plrndl. That's what everything is about in paper fiat currency societies/dumb ignorant control systems.

        * PS ... Who do you think dreams up your news and views for tomorrow. Surely you cannot believe that things just happened today and nobody thought of them yesterday to make them happen and be a shared media reality for all who be aware of it today? That would be just too stupid and unbelievable for words and strictly for dummies and the birds methinks.

        That is how things are done in SMARTR Apps with Titanic Studio Bigger Picture Shows.

      2. chrisyu

        Re: @Dave 52

        switch to climate science?

    7. itzman
      Alien

      RE: What do scientists do if dark matter can't be found?

      Lewd suggestions aside, there are plenty of theories that can be concocted in the face of any facts.

      The dark matter is probably hiding deep in the oceans somewhere...;-)

      1. Euripides Pants

        Re: RE: What do scientists do if dark matter can't be found?

        "The dark matter is probably hiding deep in the oceans somewhere...;-)"

        I don't think there's enough whale poo at the bottom of the ocean to explain all the missing mass.

    8. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Personally I've never been exactly convinced by the basic theories of dark matter and dark energy. To me it all feels too much like "we've made something invisible up to make one set of theories work". On the other hand, I'm not a theoretical physicist, I just (try to) talk semi-coherently with some of them.

      The good thing about science, is that when a theory is put forward and it's been shown to be almost certainly wrong, science can move on and try out a different theory. The bad thing about science is that's it's run by people and people have a habit of clinging onto incorrect theories for personal reasons (which are very understandable if you've spent 15 years of your life trying to "prove" something). Many of history's very eminent scientists have stuck rigidly to incorrect theories even while some of their other, well known, work was outstanding.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        As Max Planck put it: "Science progresses one funeral at a time."

      2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        The "we've made something invisible up to make one set of theories work" approach has been successful in the past, e.g. for the Periodic Table of the Elements, so I wouldn't dismiss it out-of-hand.

        Obviously, as, no doubt, the scientists in this field are telling their funding committees, we need more data.

      3. sodium-light

        Yes that's all in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. We still haven't solved what to do about politically adept, scientifically useless, ageing academics.

    9. Rol Silver badge

      I've said it before and I'll say it again. Antimatter!

      So we've found the Higgs, therefore we have to consider the anti Higgs having anti gravity properties.

      I suggest antimatter resides at a particle level in intergalactic space and like normal matter wasn't totally annihilated in the Big Bang.

      The galaxies that look to be too light to keep themselves together, at the rate of spin we see, are in fact assisted by antimatter pushing back.

      I'll say no more, promise, as I've already bored the pants off enough Reg readers recently with this theory, but if you do want to see how my "logic" pans out, have a drift through some of my recent posts. (click on my name)

      1. bpfh
        Boffin

        Higgs transfers mass, not gravity

        Higgs transfers mass (and mass = energy). An anti-higgs would transfer either negative mass (and therefore negative energy), and this could open up serious research into making stable wormholes.... but knowing how twisted quantum mechanics is, it would probably just end up transferring conventional mass to anti-particles.

        Negative mass would have some interesting anti gravity properties, but having that zipping around at a massive speed around in a gravity field would be very interesting... and would end up sitting in the lowest gravity areas of the current universe, so nowhere near us...

        1. magindville

          Re: Higgs transfers mass, not gravity

          Do you suppose that it's just coincidence, or is it fitting that "Higgs Boson" alludes to the fact that some doped up clown came up with the idea. That's what I think.

      2. adobob

        Rol, try and get a grasp of the basics of particle physics and what force carriers are before spluttering stuff like that huh? http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/10/10/3607034.htm

    10. grelbr

      There are alternatives, but most of them are unattractive for various reasons. The two big categories are modifications of Einstein gravity at very long distances, and modifications of Newton dynamics at very low accelerations. It's fairly direct to see why either of these has an uphill battle.

    11. jbz

      If space-time itself contained vortices (perhaps as the residual effect of rapid expansion?), these curvatures would read to us as the gravitational field of a mass, though there was no actual mass. The flotsam that is galactic clusters would naturally collect in such whirlpools.

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