Journal scotches dark matter rumour

A senior editor at Nature has scotched rumours that the magazine was about to publish proof of the existence of dark matter.

For the last couple of days, rumours have been circulating that the Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota had pipped the Large Hadron Collider to the post and actually detected some Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs).

Given that up to 90 percent of the universe is believed to consist of dark matter, you might not think it would be that hard to find. Scientists reckon that plenty of WIMPs zap through the Earth every second. The problem is that they barely react with normal matter.

The Soudan lab consists of a bunch of supercooled germanium and silicon ‘ice hockey pucks’ which should show a different reaction to a WIMP than to other particles.

Physics bloggers reckoned that two key ‘facts’ hinted that the lab had actually detected a WIMP. First, they reckoned that it had had a paper accepted by Nature, embargoed until next week; second, that all the organisation’s seminars in the meantime were cancelled, along with a planned documentary.

But in an email to the Resonaances  blog, Dr Leslie Sage, senior editor for physical sciences at Nature, poured scorn on the idea. Rather stroppily, he said: “Your “fact” #1, that Nature is about to publish a CDMS paper on dark matter, is completely false. This would be instantly obvious to the most casual observer because the purported date of publication is a Friday, and Nature is published on Thursdays.

“Your “fact” therefore contains as much truth as the average Fox News story, and I would be grateful if you would correct it immediately.”