Yesterday, Columbia professor Brian Greene was on Colbert’s show to talk about gravitational waves. Greene gives some nice explanations for laymen (with graphics!) about gravitational waves in general and about LIGO. He even brings out a Michelson interferometer to demonstrate how the LIGO setup works (though not with gravitational waves). Since Greene is a theorist, I would assume that someone else had to set up the interferometer for it to actually show some sensible results. You can find the video on Youtube here.
The ANTARES neutrino telescope has a new result looking for “secluded” dark matter, where dark matter annihilation is mediated through some new mediator that then decays into Standard Model particles. They claim that this can explain the high energy bump in the positron/electron ratio and can also still be a thermal relic from the Big Bang.
They look at several different channels, including one where the mediator actually lives long enough to reach Earth and decay in the atmosphere, and others where neutrinos in the final state are measured.
For this model, the result is actually stronger than direct detection experiments for spin-dependent interactions and is stronger at very high masses in the spin-independent channel. While this result isn’t particularly groundbreaking, the paper mentions that it is the first search of this kind for this type of dark matter, and I think the model, which I hadn’t heard much of previously, sounds quite interesting.
The DM-Ice experiment has released their first results for a search for an annually modulating signal of dark matter. They’re currently about an order of magnitude off from the purported DAMA/LIBRA signal but hopefully will improve significantly in the future.
DM-Ice is a NaI(Tl)-based experiment looking for signals of dark matter in their scintillating crystals. The big purpose of DM-Ice is to test various theories for why the DAMA/LIBRA experiment, a NaI(Tl) experiment at Gran Sasso, has seen an annual modulation in its event rate for many years. Various people have proposed that maybe DAMA/LIBRA is just seeing a seasonal effect. DM-Ice is in Antarctica, so any seasonal effects will be very different. If DM-Ice sees the same modulation as DAMA/LIBRA, then that would rule out many of the proposed explanation, since dark matter will modulate in the same way no matter where the detector is but most other things will be location dependent.
There’s a new white paper/review that just appeared on the arXiv about the possibility of keV-scale sterile neutrino dark matter. I haven’t read through it, but this is an interesting non-WIMP possibility for dark matter. Sterile neutrinos don’t interact at all with the Standard Model except maybe through neutrino oscillations, but if they have mass, they can still be a dark matter candidate if there’s a good production mechanism. Current dark matter experiments would generally be insensitive to this kind of dark matter, since the standard signal of low energy nuclear recoils would probably be disallowed, or at least heavily suppressed, but there are apparently still some paths toward finding sterile neutrino dark matter beyond just discovering keV-scale sterile neutrinos.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article about PRL, which is the most prestigious physics journal in many fields. Last week’s LIGO result was published in PRL, and traffic during the announcement actually crashed the PRL website for a few hours.
IceCube and Antares have looked for evidence of neutrino emission coincident with the gravitational wave signal seen by LIGO. They see no evidence of neutrinos being emitted by the gravitational wave source. That doesn’t mean there are no neutrinos, just that even if there are, not enough reached us to be able to see them. But, as the article points out, this means that gravitational wave and neutrino observatories can now work together to try to study rare astrophysical events.
Sean Carroll, who wrote one of the most popular textbooks on general relativity, has a new article in The Atlantic. He goes over some of the historical context and some of the ideas behind gravitational waves so that people who know almost nothing about physics can understand a little about yesterday’s announcement.