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Physics Colloquium Series: Professor Eric Dahl
(Physics Lecture Series) Northwestern University, Department of Physics and Astronomy
“In search of WIMP dark matters”
The nature of dark matter is one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics. Nearly a century of observations leave no doubt that the vast majority of the matter in the universe is dark. Gravitational effects from dark matter are seen throughout the evolution of the universe, from the present day back to the cosmic dawn, and on length scales ranging from single galaxies to the entire visible universe. From these observations we have learned that dark matter is fundamentally different from the protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up the matter we know, and there are many efforts worldwide working to understand just what the dark matter is made of.
I will describe progress in “Direct Detection” experiments — experiments that try to catch glimpses of individual dark matter particles from our own galaxy as they pass through detectors here on earth. My focus will be the PICO experiment, a bubble chamber searching for dark matter in the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs), and an experiment whose story captures both the challenges and successes experimenters face on the quest to discover dark matter.