Dark matter detector set up

2012-07-14 14:16

South Dakota - The world's most sensitive dark matter detector settled into a new home on Friday in an old US gold mine.

And when it starts collecting data later this year, scientists say it could lead to another breakthrough in studies of the universe, on the scale of the recent celebration over the so-called "God particle".

"Dark matter presents a much bigger problem to detect," said Tom Shutt, a physics professor with Case Western Reserve University who's working on the Large Underground Xenon detector, known as LUX.

"If we find it, it's going to be a much bigger shift in our understanding of physics."

Scientists earlier this month announced a breakthrough in the existence of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that scientists believe gives other particles mass. It is sometimes called the "God particle" because its existence is key to understanding the early evolution of the universe.


Dark matter, meanwhile, is elusive matter that scientists believe makes up about 25% of the universe. They know it's there by its gravitational pull, but unlike regular matter and antimatter, it's so far undetectable.

By discovering dark matter, scientists could explain why the universe isn't made up equally of matter and antimatter. That, in turn, could explain how the world as we know it came to be.

The Sanford Underground Research Facility was unveiled in May within a closed gold mine in South Dakota's Black Hills.

The mine is useful because dark matter is too sensitive to detect in normal laboratories. By setting up LUX deep underground, dark matter should be shielded from pesky cosmic radiation that interferes with detection.

Moving the three-ton detector into place took time and care. It was wrapped in protective foam and plastic and rode part of the way underground on air bearings to protect it from even the slightest jiggle.


"It was a bit of a nail-biter," Yale Physics Professor Dan McKinsey said. "We always worry there might be something you didn't think of that could go wrong."

The detector could begin collecting data as early as December.

"We're all going after the same thing: We're trying to figure out what are the basic components of the universe," Shutt said.

  • charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-07-14 14:26

    That contraption looks like a server rack in a basement. " its existence is key to understanding the early evolution of the universe" - evolution is not science. Please people, come on now. I hope that science eventually catches up with exactly how God created this universe. All these theories are leaving people confused and uncertain. Just find all this 'elusive' stuff that God used and get it over and done with.

      charlesdumbwin.dumbwin - 2012-07-14 14:27

      Science still has so much to learn about the magnitude of God. Hopefully the collective human intellect will pull together to begin to understand more about Him. It's taken us almost 6 000 years, so by now mankind should have a better idea of how God created the universe.

      Richard - 2012-07-14 15:25

      Maybe we should all just read Moses' manual on 'Him' and be done with it? And who created your god and gave him a penis? Maybe a big bang made your god and then your god made the universe. Sounds good to me, now all I need is some disciples to spread my new religion.

      Riebens - 2012-07-14 17:39

      God said she want's people to find out for themself what else she created. And then she will have pity on all our whiteys that lost our skin colour.

      jaco.faling - 2012-07-14 18:14

      Charles you are sounding more and more like a troll. Whatever your intentions, lets keep the comments on science articles on the discussion of science please.

      Riebens - 2012-07-14 23:53

      Charles.. I see you are in good company. I have 6 suckers so far that have no idea how to identify sarcasm

  • coenraad.vanderwesthuizen.3 - 2012-07-14 19:57

    This is progress. One more step forward in making charles dumbwin and his ilk more redundant. But, i digress. Science searches actively for answers, and is not limited to sitting on a mountain top waiting for an imaginary entity to deliver cryptic answers to the ignorant and smallminded. Those who are unable to distinguise between science and scorcery should keep away from anything with a keyboard.

  • oosthuizen.renier - 2012-07-14 20:23

    It is sometimes called the "God particle" because its existence is key to understanding the early evolution of the universe. <-- NO, it's not called the god particle for that reason. It was called the "god-damn" particle because it is so damn hard to find. But the publisher of Leon Ledermans book on the subject decided "god particle" would sound better. News24 you disappoint... again.

      coenraad.vanderwesthuizen.3 - 2012-07-14 20:27

      It is fortunate it wasn't called the for-f-sake particle, else it would have the biologists up in arms and not the relious nuts.

      oosthuizen.renier - 2012-07-14 21:24

      true dat

  • johann.pretorius.7 - 2012-07-14 21:30

    Suppose we believe for a moment that a paradigm shift really is planned for 21 December, and suppose we believe the interpretation that the world will change the way they view life as we know it,then this machine is bang on time to be the catalyst to prove or disprove the existance of God and the god particle. Whichever way that evidence pans out we are in for some interesting debate.

  • - 2012-07-15 08:41

    That contraption looks like a redundant telkom telephone kiosk. And if it was it probably would be out of order.

  • sharon.a.marks.9 - 2012-07-15 17:50

    ive got one in my yard its called a pitbull

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