Could Dark matter be a cosmic relic from extra dimensions?

By: April Carson

The fundamental particles that make up dark matter, the enigmatic substance that accounts for most of the universe's mass, could be composed of massive particles called gravitons that first emerged in the initial nanosecond following the Big Bang. And these theoretical particles might be extra-dimensional migrants who have fled their home dimension, according to a new hypothesis.

This hypothetical scenario could explain some otherwise puzzling properties of dark matter, such as why it barely interacts with other forms of matter and energy. If dark matter is made up of gravitons, they would be very difficult to detect directly because they would barely interact with anything else in the universe.

The findings suggest that the particles were formed in just the right quantities to account for dark matter, which is only "seen" through its gravitational pull on ordinary matter. "Collisions of ordinary particles in the early universe generate massive gravitons. This process was supposed to be too uncommon for massive gravitons to be dark matter candidates," study co-author Giacomo Cacciapaglia, a physicist at the University of Lyon in France, told Live Science.

However, in a research published in February in the Physical Review Letters journal, Cacciapaglia and collaborators from Korea University discovered that enough of these gravitons were produced early in the cosmos to explain all of the dark matter we now detect.

According to the study, if gravitons exist, they would have a mass of less than 1 megaelectronvolt (MeV), which is about twice the weight of an electron. The study found that because this mass level is well below the scale at which ordinary matter receives mass through the Higgs boson - which is crucial for the model to produce enough of them to balance all dark matter in existence - no more than two times the amount of proton radiation would be required. (For comparison, according on National Institute of Standards and Technology data, neutrinos weigh less than 2 electronvolts.)

When searching for indications of extra dimensions, which some physicists believe exist alongside the known three spatial dimensions and the fourth dimension, time, researchers at CERN discovered these potential gravitons.

When gravity transcends into higher dimensions, it is thought to manifest as enormous gravitons in our reality. If they exist, they could be so massive that they barely interact with anything, which is why they have been so difficult to find.

But if dark matter consists of these ultralight particles, it would explain why it has been so elusive.

These particles, though, would only interact with normal matter very weakly and only via the power of gravity. This description is eerily similar to dark matter, which does not react with light yet has a gravitational pull felt throughout the cosmos. Galaxies are kept from flying apart thanks to this gravitational tug.

"Massive gravitons as dark matter particles have the main advantage of not interacting with anything, therefore they may be avoided through any searches for their presence," Cacciapaglia said.

Other dark matter candidates, such as weakly interacting massive particles, axions and neutrinos, might also be felt by their incredibly modest interactions with other forces and fields.

Another benefit is that because heavy gravitons have little interaction with the other components and forces in the universe, they can travel much farther before interacting.

According to Cacciapaglia, "They remained constant throughout the lifetime of the universe owing to their extremely slight interactions, which decay so slowly that they remain stable. They are also produced gradually as the universe expands and accumulate there until today for the same reason."

Gravitons were previously thought to be dark matter candidates because the processes that create them are incredibly rare, which made it seem unlikely that they would be produced in significant quantities. As a consequence, gravitons would be generated at significantly lower rates than other particles.

But the group discovered that, in the picosecond (trillionth of a second) immediately following the Big Bang, more of these gravitons were created than previous ideas predicted. This boost was sufficient for massive gravitons to entirely account for the amount of dark matter we can see in the cosmos, according on their research.

"It was a surprise," Cacciapaglia agreed. "We had to do several checks to ensure that the conclusion was correct, since it implies a significant paradigm shift in our thinking about possible dark matter candidates."

Because gravitons form below the energy scale of the Higgs boson, they are devoid of concerns associated with higher energy scales, which current particle physics isn't well-equipped to handle.

The team's hypothesis links particle accelerator physics with gravitational physics. This implies that future circular colliders like the Future Circular Collider at CERN, which should begin operations in 2035, could look for signs of these proposed dark matter particles.

"Probably the greatest opportunity we have is in future high-precision particle colliders," Cacciapaglia added. "This is something we're currently looking at."

Though speculative, the new hypothesis is "definitely plausible," said Lindley Winslow, a particle astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved in the research.

This study originally appeared on Live Science.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

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