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Big Data for Dark Matter

By / 22nd of August, 2014
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A global project to find dark matter by mining big data is being launched from Adelaide in South Australia with the aim of formulating a model to determine the best theory.

Dr Martin White, a physicist at the University of Adelaide, will lead a multinational group of scientists forward in understanding something they can’t even see: dark matter.

“What we can see – what we call visible or ‘normal’ matter – makes up only 4% of the Universe,” said Dr White, who has won an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to run the program.

“Dark matter is the stuff in our Universe that we can’t see using light. It’s one of the biggest mysteries in science right now,” he said. 

The fellowship will allow Dr White to lead a large multinational team working on developing techniques for analysis of particle physics and astrophysics data from global experiments and test the various models of dark matter.

The project presents a new approach to an old problem, as it will tap into the huge amount of data that already exists, and then use the results to design new ways of thinking about and testing possible models of dark matter.

“We think dark matter is some kind of new particle that hasn’t yet been identified,” said Dr White.

“Essentially what we’re trying to do is find the dark matter equivalent of atoms, which are the building blocks of visible matter,” he said.

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Dr White will work with colleagues in the USA, Norway, Scotland, the Netherlands and Germany, amongst other countries.

“Understanding how dark matter works is absolutely vital to knowing our universe better,” said Dr White.

This project will run over four years. “At the end of the work we aim to have the world’s most advanced computer program telling us which theory of dark matter is true,” he said.

“I hope by then we will also have seen measurements to support the theory – the first indications of dark matter in the Large Hadron Collider or in other experiments.”

Dr White also recently contributed to the The Science of Dr Who, a collaborative event between the Royal Institute of Australia and BBC Worldwide