A New Experiment Will Attempt to Find the Fifth Universal Force: the "Dark Force"

Tuesday, 04 September 2018 - 1:54PM
Physics
Weird Science
Tuesday, 04 September 2018 - 1:54PM
A New Experiment Will Attempt to Find the Fifth Universal Force: the "Dark Force"
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Image Credit: Pixabay Composite

In 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope taught us about the Dark Side of the Force. Now, in a weird bit of synchronicity, The Guardian writes that there's a new experiment planned by scientists at Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics called 'Padme' (short for "Positron Annihilation into Dark Matter Experiment") that will help researchers there determine whether there is a fifth universal force governing the universe, dubbed "the dark force."

Die-hard Star Wars fans, however, will note that Padme was also the name of Anakin Skywalker's wife. That's the same Anakin Skywalker who became Darth Vader, who famously said "If only you knew the power of the Dark Side!" Weird how things work out like that.

In simple terms, the Padme experiment is designed to look for dark photons, the dark matter equivalent of normal photons. Though no one has ever directly observed dark matter, scientists may be able to use this experiment to pick out their absence. Here's how it works: the experiment will bombard a tiny diamond wafer with positrons, which should create two photons when they hit the diamond. However, if there's a fifth universal force at work (in addition to the traditional four, usually identified as gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force), scientists theorize that one of those photons will seemingly disappear. In reality, however, it will have become one of the first identifiable pieces of dark matter, a dark photon.

Understanding dark matter (which is estimated to make up roughly 27% of the universe) and dark energy (which makes up roughly 68%) is key to understanding what the universe is really made of, and discovering the existence of a "dark force" would be a major insight into a realm that science knows little to nothing about—the "dark sector."

"It would definitely be a huge thing in physics if some evidence of a dark sector was found," said Bryan McKinnon of Glasgow University in a statement to The Guardian. "Right now, it's labelled as such because it's the stuff we don't understand."

Opening quote
If a door can be opened, what will come out? That's guesswork right now.
Closing quote


We shall see.

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