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Dark matter hits you once a minute

We all get whacked by WIMPs

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Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPS) hit you about once a minute, according to a new paper titled Dark Matter collisions with the Human Body.

That’s not something to be unduly worried about, as the paper suggests billions of WIMPs pass through our bodies every minute without so much as nudging a particle. That they do so is, as the paper explains, attributable to the fact that WIMPs are “electrically neutral and do not participate in strong interactions, yet have weak inter-actions with ordinary matter.” Those qualities make them a “leading candidate” to fill in the blanks in the quest for “dark matter”, the missing bits of the universe we’d all really like to know about so that equations about life, the universe and everything produce neat answers.

Researchers Katherine Freese and Christopher Savage reach the estimate of one WIMP hit a minute by using the results of WIMP-detection experiments DAMA, CoGeNT and CRESST. While noting that opinion about the results of those experiments is far from settled, the pair come up with an overall WIMP prevalence figure and also discuss measurements of just what happens when WIMPs bump into different elements.

The paper then considers the kinds of matter present in human bodies, assumes an average body weighing 70kg and arrives at a conclusion that "as many as 105 WIMPs hit a nucleus in the human body in an average year, corresponding to almost one a minute."

The paper has caveats galore, given that WIMPs are hard to spot and aren’t confirmed as dark matter. And of course let’s not forget that no-one has seen a WIMP bump into a person. If you could see such a thing, the paper explains that WIMPs appear to transfer momentum, and not much else, to nuclei.

So don’t get excited about WIMPs as a way to get a little energy boost. Coffee seems still to be your best bet. ®

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