Wolfgang “Wolfi” Mittig, & Yassin Ayyad began to discover the universe’s missing mass, also recognized as dark matter, three years ago.
While they didn’t discover dark matter, their expedition did uncover something extraordinary that was not known before. It defied explanation. It was at least an elucidation that everyone could accept.
He stated, “We tried to find dark matter. But we couldn’t.” “Instead we discovered other things that were difficult for theory to explain.”
The team got back to work. They continued to perform more experiments and collected more evidence to support their findings. Mittig and Ayyad supported their claims at Michigan State University’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory.
The team at NSCL discovered a new way to reach their unpredictable destination. This was detailed in Physical Review Letters, June 28, 2008. The team also found interesting physics within the ultra-small quantum realms of subatomic particles.
Particularly, the team found that even though an atom is overstuffed with nucleus neutrons it can still find a way into a more stable configuration simply by spewing out a proton.
Shot in dark
Dark matter is the most famous but least known phenomenon in the universe. Since the dawn of time, scientists have known that the cosmos is home to more mass than we can see. This was based upon the trajectories taken by galaxies and stars.
It focused on what it called a dark decay. The theory suggested that unstable nuclei, which are nuclei that naturally break down, could release dark matter as they fell apart.
Ayyad and Mittig devised an experiment to search for dark decays, even though they knew the odds against them. The gamble was not as costly as it sounds. Researchers can also study exotic decays to well understand the structures and rules of the quantum and nuclear worlds.
Researchers had a high chance of finding something new. It was a question of what this would look like.
Help from halo
Ayyad stated that many people may imagine a nucleus as a big, lumpy, composed of protons & neutrons. There are many shapes that nuclei may take, such as the halo nuclei.
Beryllium-11 is one example of Halo Nuclei. It’s an isotope or form of the element Beryllium that contains four protons as well as seven neutrons within its nucleus. It contains 10 of the 11 nucleons in a tight cluster. Ayyad explained that one neutron, which is far away from the core, is loosely bound to other parts of the nucleus.
Conferring to this very hypothetical concept, however, if the neutron responsible for decaying is the one in the halo, then beryllium-11 might take a completely dissimilar path: It could experience a dark decay.
The NSCL experiment
In the 2019 experiment by the team, TRIUMF produced a beam of beryllium-11 nuclear nuclei. This beam was directed into a detection chamber that allowed researchers to observe different decay routes. This included the beta decay process to proton emission that produced beryllium-10.
The team had the idea to run the time-reversed reactions for the new experiments. It took place in August 2021. The researchers would use beryllium-10 nuclei as a starting point and then add a proton.
The nucleus reached the same excited state researchers thought it had three years ago when beryllium-10 took in a proton with the right energy. The process’ signature can even be detected by the fact that it would spit out the proton.
Ayyad stated that the results of both experiments were very compatible.
This was not the only positive news. The team didn’t know that an independent group from Florida State University had developed a different way to analyze the 2019 results. Ayyad was able to see the preliminary results of the Florida State team at a virtual conference and was impressed by what he saw.
Both teams kept in touch throughout the development of their reports. The scientific publications are now published in the same issue. The new effects have already generated a lot of buzz within the community.
An open case regarding open quantum systems
This excitement could partly be due to the fact that the team’s work could offer a new case for an open quantum system. It is a scary name but it can be likened to the old adage that “nothing exists outside of a vacuum”.
Quantum physics is a framework that allows us to understand the very small components of nature. Atoms, molecules, & so on. This empathy has led to advances in almost every field of physical science.
This outline was however largely designed for simplified scenarios. The super small system that is of interest would be isolated somehow from the enormous amount of input it receives from the world. Physics is moving away from idealized situations when it comes to studying open quantum systems. Instead, they are looking at the complexity of the real world.