Physicists think that more than a quarter of the mass of the universe is made out of dark matter, even though no one has ever found any.
Until now, that is. Maybe.
Any discussion of dark matter has to involve a lot of hedging and hypotheticals. That said, a group of eight Johns Hopkins physicists, astronomers, and astrophysicists seem to be moderately confident that they’ve made some sort of progress toward solving one of the universe’s most puzzling mysteries.
Their full argument involves a lot of math that is way over my head, but the gist of it is this: Earlier this year, an astrophysics experiment yielded the first observation of gravitational waves, something that one Hopkins scientist called “bigger than the Higgs boson.” The group of eight Hopkins scientists were intrigued, however, by another aspect of the experiment — its black holes:
[The masses of the black holes detected] are too large to fit predictions of the size of most stellar black holes, the ultra-dense structures that form when stars collapse. But they are also too small to fit the predictions of the size of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies…the objects detected in that experiment conform to the mass predicted for dark matter [and also] fit within the expected range of mass of “primordial” black holes.
The primordial black holes are a semi-controversial, theoretical (at this point) byproduct of the birth of the universe. Are they the source of dark matter? The physicists are both excited and, of course, cautious: “We are not proposing this is the dark matter,” study author Marc Kamionkowski told the Hopkins Hub. “We’re not going to bet the house. It’s a plausibility argument.”
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