Death by Dark Matter

Death by Dark Matter

To most of us, the titles of most research papers are dense and dull. But a paper published in July would draw just about anyone’s interest: Death by Dark Matter. In the paper, researchers looked to see if people were being killed by a possible form of dark matter. The conclusion: We’re safe.

Dark matter is far more abundant than normal matter — the kind that makes up stars, planets, and people. We can’t see dark matter because it doesn’t interact with normal matter. But we know it’s there because it exerts a gravitational pull on what we can see.

Scientists have proposed many possible explanations for dark matter. They range from tiny subatomic particles to black holes left over from the Big Bang. The leading idea says it consists of fairly heavy particles. But efforts to find those particles have turned up empty.

Another idea says the dark matter could consist of tiny clumps of normal particles. But they’d be arranged and held together in odd ways, so they’d be extremely dense and heavy — up to a hundred pounds.

A couple of researchers calculated that if such a clump zipped through a human body, it would act like a tiny but powerful bullet. It would bore a narrow hole, and heat the tissue around it to millions of degrees.

The researchers analyzed 10 years of medical records from North America and Europe. And they found no likely cases of death by dark matter. That reduces the chance that such a heavy form of dark matter exists — luckily for us.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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