The DAMA Dilema
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The DAMA Dilema

Have we really uncovered dark matter?

The DAMA Dilema

When understanding humanity, people are described as icebergs where most of what makes us us, is hidden under the surface. The universe is no different. Dark energy is estimated to make up about 68% of the universe and dark matter is estimated to make up 27% while all normal matter makes up less than 5%. So, calling it normal doesn’t seem correct at all, and to understand the nature of the universe we must dig a little deeper.

Currently we only know the quantity of dark forces because of how it affects the known universe, through gravity, space-time, and the electromagnetic spectrum. Dark energy is a theoretical repulsive force that counteracts gravity and causes the universe to expand at an accelerating rate and is one of the driving factors in the Big Bang Theory.

Dark matter is most often described as axions, MACHOS (Massive Compact Halo Objects), or WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles). All are essentially impossible to observe, even in sterile lab conditions but physicists Italy are claiming to have discovered the first real-time recording of dark matter in their report on the results of the DAMA experiment.

DAMA is 20 years into an experiment where they measure the nuclear activity in ions and are attempting to pick up the interaction between the elusive dark matter particles and observable matter. The experiment takes place more than a mile under the Gran Sasso Mountain in the Apennines. Such a remote location is necessary, because Earth’s orbit around the Sun curbs the radiation and gravitational effects being measured.

DAMA’s goal is to search for WIMP’s, because they are the most likely to be observed. Rita Bernabei and other scientists working on the project say that they have discovered an oscillating signal that is believed to be a WIMP. Katherine Freese, a skeptic of the project explains seeing dark matter as, “in the same way that when you are driving it looks like the rain coming into your windshield.

Freese explained that the results should show a higher recording of dark matter interactions at lower energies, but the DAMA results do not reflect this. Many physicists are skeptical of the results because they are not able to recreate the results using many materials that should yield comparable results with the signal reported in Italy.

In the recreation experiment using the XENON1T detector, Baum, Freese, and Kelso show that light wimps should almost exclusively interact with sodium and heavy wimps interact almost exclusively with iodine in low energy recoils. This is because of an innate preference for proton interaction rather than the neutron.

Seeing the preferred interaction with sodium in light WIMPS should be evident, because it has less neutrons. In addition, the results from the DAMA experiment did not include if background effects diminish or amplify at lower energies. Without complete transparency in the project it will be near impossible to verify its validity, and multiple exact recreations are necessary for it to be accepted or even taken seriously in the science community.

Freese says, “You still have to go build detectors made of the same material, but with different people doing it, and in different locations in the world ... to figure out what the hell’s going on with DAMA,” she says. “Because nobody understands DAMA.”

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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