Astronomy and Astrophysics

Dark Matter: Theory and Experiment
Jason Kumar, University of Hawaii

Since the 1930's, astronomers and physicists have developed growing observational evidence suggesting that the vast majority of the matter in the universe (approximately 80%!) is of a new type which we cannot see... so-called "dark matter." Although there is broad agreement that a new physical idea is required to explain this data, no one is sure what this answer is. But one of the most appealing explanations is the presence of a new type of particle, known as a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle (WIMP). I will start by summarizing the reasons why we believe dark matter exists, and why a new particle might be a good explanation for the data. I'll describe what a WIMP is, and why WIMPs are such an appealing candidate explanation.

The search is on for more data which can help pin down the precise nature of dark matter. One of the reasons why dark matter research is such an exciting subject is because this search covers so many topics and fields, lying at the interface of particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. Researchers from all of these fields, both theorist and experimentalists, are approaching this problem from a variety of angles. I'll describe the approaches being used to detect the presence of dark matter, and the tantalizing (and often confusing) hints of dark matter which some experiments have found. I'll also describe the theoretical assumptions which are often used in trying to draw conclusions from the data of so many very different experiments, and how changes
in our assumptions can lead us to draw very different conclusions from the data.

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Astronomy and Astrophysics

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