The theory speculates that should a certain type of dark matter particle exist, it would occasionally kill people. Such a dark matter particle would pass through people like a bullet, a new study has claimed. But since no one has died from such unexplained gunshot-like wounds, this type of dark matter does not exist. However, there are other ways to detect this particular type of dark matter and researchers should keep looking, says the University of Texas’ Professor Katherine Freese, who was not involved in the study.
She said: “We don’t know what dark matter is, so we shouldn’t write things off.
Dark matter makes up about 85 percent of the mass of the universe, but the substance itself remains a puzzle.
One theory suggests dark matter consists of weakly interacting massive particles.
These particles would be plentiful, but so unable to interact with regular matter that only very sensitive detectors would be capable of detecting them – so far without success.
A less mainstream dark matter candidate, known as macros, would form heavier particles.
Although macros would be much rarer than their rival candidate, any collisions with ordinary matter would be violent, leaving an obvious evidence.
And a groundbreaking new study explores what those traces might resemble if people encountered these macros particles.
Dr Glenn Starkman and Jagjit Singh Sidhu, theoretical physicists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, were originally searching for traces of macros in granite slabs when colleague Professor Robert Scherrer made the suggestion: “Why can’t you just use humans as a detector?
“The energies you’re talking about, these things would probably at best maim a person, at worst kill a person.”
The team forged ahead with the idea and modelled macros that would have a similar effect to a fatal shot from a .22 caliber rifle.
Such particles would be minuscule, but very heavy, and thus release the same amount of energy as a bullet as it passes through a person.
Their calculations focused on the millions of people living in Canada, the United States and Western Europe over the past decade as these countries have reliable cause of death data.
In this sample, scientists would expect to see a handful of reports of unexplained deaths from invisible dark matter “bullets.”
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These deaths would not go unnoticed — they would leave victims dead or dying with a tubular wound where their flesh was vaporised.
This experiment doesn’t rule out heavy macro dark matter altogether, Professor Scherrer says. It merely eliminates a certain range of them.
Heavier macro dark matter would not occur frequently enough to measure, Freese notes, and other forms wouldn’t kill people.
“There is probably still room for very heavy dark matter,” says Paolo Gorla, a particle physicist at Italy’s underground Gran Sasso National Laboratory, who is not involved with the study.