The Straits Times
Published on Feb 18, 2013

Scientists sense breakthroughs in dark-matter mystery


BOSTON (AFP) - For decades, the strange substance called dark matter has teased physicists, challenging conventional notions of the cosmos. Today, though, scientists believe that with the help of multi-billion-dollar tools, they are closer than ever to piercing the mystery - and the first clues may be unveiled just weeks from now.

"We are so excited because we believe we are on the threshold of a major discovery," said Dr Michael Turner, director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, at an annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dark matter throws down the gauntlet to the so-called Standard Model of physics. Elegant and useful for identifying the stable of particles and forces that regulate our daily life, the Standard Model only tells part of the cosmic story. For one thing, it does not explain gravity, although we know how to measure gravity and exploit it for our needs. And the Standard Model has been found to account for only around four or five percent of the stuff in the Universe.

The rest is dark matter, making up 23 per cent, and dark energy, an enigmatic force that appears to drive the expansion of the universe, which accounts for around 72 per cent or 73 per cent.