The Sciences

Avignon Day 4: Dark Matter

Cosmic VarianceBy Sean CarrollApr 22, 2011 4:40 AM

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Yesterday's talks were devoted to the idea of dark matter, which as you know is the hottest topic in cosmology these days, both theoretically and experimentally. Eric Armengaud and Lars Bergstrom gave updates on the state of direct searches and indirect searches for dark matter, respectively. John March-Russell gave a theory talk about possible connections between dark matter and the baryon asymmetry. The density of dark matter and ordinary matter in the universe is the same, to within an order of magnitude, even though we usually think of them as arising from completely different mechanisms. That's a coincidence that bugs some people, and the last couple of years have seen a boomlet of papers proposing models in which the two phenomena are actually connected. Tracy Slatyer gave an update on proposals for a new dark force coupled to dark matter, which could give rise to interesting signatures in both direct and indirect detection experiments. This is science at its most intense. A big, looming mystery, a bounty of clever theoretical ideas, not nearly enough data to pinpoint the correct answer, but more than enough data to exclude or tightly constrain most of the ideas you might have. It wouldn't be at all surprising if we finally discover the dark matter in the next few years; unfortunately, it wouldn't really be surprising if it eluded detection for a very long time. If we knew the answers ahead of time, it wouldn't be science (or nearly as much fun). Today is our last day in Avignon, devoted to cosmic acceleration. My own talk later today is on "White and Dark Smokes in Cosmology." (The title wasn't my idea, but I couldn't have done better, given the context.) It's the last talk of the conference, so I'll try to take a big-picture perspective and not sweat the technical details, but (following tradition) I will admit that it's an excuse to talk about my own recent papers and ideas I think are interesting but haven't written papers about. At least it should be short, which I understand is the primary criterion for a successful talk of this type. Also, few people have strong feelings about non-gaussianities or neutrinos, but many people have strong feelings about reductionism. Quelle surprise!

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