Star Trek: Neutron Stars, Antimatter, and Other Topics in Physics

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That would be detectable by its effect on things like the structure of neutron stars and other compact astronomical bodies. Axions were first predicted as a solution to a thorny problem in the physics of the strong nuclear force , but certain properties make them appealing as dark matter candidates. In other words, they behave much like cold dark matter, but without the large mass usually implied by the term. Unlike supersymmetry, which involves adding one particle for each type in the Standard Model, axions are just one particle type, albeit one with some unique properties.

But according to theory, in a strong magnetic field, axions and photons can oscillate into each other, switching smoothly between particle types. One interesting candidate is jokingly known a WIMPzilla, which consists of one or more particle type more than a trillion times the mass of a proton. Because they are so much heavier, WIMPzillas can be rarer and interact more readily with normal matter, but—as with other more exotic candidates—they aren't really considered to be a strong possibility. However, each guess—even unlikely ones—can help us understand what dark matter can be, and what it can't.

If you want a more grumpy description, you could say that dark matter is the worst idea, except for all the other options. Of course, Nature is sly. A world with both axions and WIMPs—motivated as they are by different problems arising from the Standard Model—would be confounding but not beyond reason. Tonight's Sky — Change location. US state, Canadian province, or country. Tonight's Sky — Select location. Tonight's Sky — Enter coordinates. UTC Offset:. NASA is developing a lunar dust-busting paint.

What if the most popular hypothesis is wrong? Plenty of fringier theories exist.

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Star Trek: Neutron Stars, Antimatter, and Other Topics in Physics

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