A dark matter detector about 700 meters below the ground in a Minnesota mine has recorded a seasonal modulation in staggeringly faint electrical pulses – the possible result of dark matter particles called WIMPs that envelope the Milky Way galaxy and collide with atoms in the detector’s germanium crystal.
COLLAR: Well, exactly. It could be. It's one of three things: It's either dark matter, or it is something perfectly boring, systematic and instrumental – it wouldn’t be the first time in physics that we fool ourselves into thinking that something mundane is relevant. This sort of situation typically happens when agreement with other experiments is noticed, and soon after you are obsessed with observations that normally you wouldn't pay any attention to.
I thought, “That sounds like a WIMP detector”. I went to my boss in Paris, Georges Waysand, and asked, “What's going on with these detectors?” and he said, “I have no idea.” So we decided to look into them. When I came to Chicago we moved to using the same concept in the form of bubble chambers.
COLLAR: I'm going to quote my colleague here in Chicago, (astrophysicist) Rocky Kolb. Rocky says, ‘It's going to take a village to discover dark matter,’ and I agree with that. It's going to take more than the direct detection community observing these recoils. Certainly the directional signature would be fantastic, but I think we’re really far away from getting to that point, if we ever get to that point.
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