Seeing the Fifth Dimension Through Dark Matter

James Maynard
Feb 3 · 4 min read

Could a fifth dimension of nature may be glimpsed through interactions with dark matter?

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A new idea suggests we may be able to see interactions between dark matter and the fifth dimension of spacetime. Image credit: The Cosmic Companion/Pete Linforth/Pixabay

A theory of dark matter that goes beyond the Standard Model of physics suggests dark matter may be seen through interactions within the fifth dimension.

This idea could allow physicists to test fascinating ideas, potentially explaining much about the very nature of spacetime.

“After years of searching for possible confirmations of our theoretical predictions, we are now confident that the mechanism we have discovered would make dark matter accessible to forthcoming experiments, because the properties of the new interaction between ordinary matter and dark matter — which is mediated by our proposed particle — can be calculated accurately within our theory,” said Professor Matthias Neubert, head of the research team that made the finding.

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No, this is the OTHER Fifth Dimension. Image credit: Soul City Records

We typically think of coordinates of space using three spatial and one temporal (time) dimensions. To communicate where to rendezvous for a meeting in a well-ordered city, one would need to communicate the two dimensions of cross streets (6th Street and 4th Ave), as well as the elevation (6th floor), and the time (Thursday at four). in physics, these four dimensions are wrapped together in the concept of spacetime coordinates.

However, many theoretical physicists have suggested that, at extremely small scales, there may be additional dimensions beyond left-and-right, up-and-down, and forward-and-backward. Such a makeup of nature would explain several mysteries, including the masses of particles, or the nature of dark matter.

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Theodor Kaluza (left) and Oskar Klein (right), physicists who first postulated additional dimensions beyond those we normally experience. Public domain images.

The idea of additional dimensions on top of those we use in our everyday lives goes back to the 1920’s. At that time, physicists Theodor Kaluza and Oskar Klein were attempting to find a theory which unified electromagnetism with gravity. The team first suggested that our Cosmos may be home to more than our traditional concepts of spacetime.

This idea moved forward in the 1990’s, when physicists found that adding extra dimensions to their equations allowed them to easily solve several problems in particle physics.

“I didn’t know the full dimensions of forever, but I knew it was longer than waiting for Christmas to come.” — Richard Brautigan

Not surprisingly, elementary particles are seen possessing a wide range of masses. Surprisingly, these masses show regular, unexplained patterns.

Yuval Grossman of Stanford University and Matthias Neubert, then a professor at Cornell University, found a possible answer to the mystery. When they extended the standard model of physics to include a fifth dimension, these patterns of mass were explained for the first time. This pairing also successfully predicts the observed concentration of dark matter around the Cosmos.

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Professor Matthias Neubert, currently with Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Image credit: Werner Feldmann

Two decades later, Professor Matthias Neubert, currently with Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, found that if a fifth dimension were present, it would produce a so-far-unseen super-heavy particle.

This subatomic particle would resemble the more-famous Higgs boson, but would be far more massive. This particle would have a mass far in excess of anything current particle accelerators can produce — even the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Center for Nuclear Research CERN outside Geneva.

“It was a nightmare. We were excited by the idea that our theory predicts a new particle, but it appeared to be impossible to confirm this prediction in any foreseeable experiment,” Javier Castellano Ruiz, a PhD student who worked on the study, states.

Physicist Brian Greene explains how extra dimensions could affect our models of the Universe. Video credit: Ted-Ed

As certain as physicists are of the standard model, there was no way to test the theory of a fifth dimension — until now.

“The discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC represented the last step towards establishing the Standard Model (SM) as a solid theory describing the constituents of matter and their interactions down to very short distances. However, there are still some questions which do not have an answer within the SM,” researchers describe in their study, published in European Physical Journal C.

This newly-postulated particle would mediate an unknown force between familiar elementary particles and dark matter. These interactions, researchers speculate, could be detected by experiments, providing the first physical evidence for additional dimensions.

James Maynard is the founder and publisher of The Cosmic Companion. He is a New England native turned desert rat in Tucson, where he lives with his lovely wife, Nicole, and Max the Cat.

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The Cosmic Companion

Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time

James Maynard

Written by

Writing about space since I was 10, still not Carl Sagan. Weekly video show, podcast, comics, more: www.thecosmiccompanion.net

The Cosmic Companion

Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time

James Maynard

Written by

Writing about space since I was 10, still not Carl Sagan. Weekly video show, podcast, comics, more: www.thecosmiccompanion.net

The Cosmic Companion

Exploring the wonders of the Cosmos, one mystery at a time

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