Could ‘Mirror Neutrons’ Account for Unobservable Dark Matter?

Article written: 18 Jun , 2012
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

Could mirror universes or parallel worlds account for dark matter — the ‘missing’ matter in the Universe? In what seems to be mixing of science and science fiction, a new paper by a team of theoretical physicists hypothesizes the existence of mirror particles as a possible candidate for dark matter. An anomaly observed in the behavior of ordinary particles that appear to oscillate in and out of existence could be from a “hypothetical parallel world consisting of mirror particles,” says a press release from Springer. “Each neutron would have the ability to transition into its invisible mirror twin, and back, oscillating from one world to the other.”

Theoretical physicists Zurab Berezhiani and Fabrizio Nesti from the University of l’Aquila, Italy, reanalyzed the experimental data obtained by the research group of Anatoly Serebrov at the Institut Laue-Langevin, France, which showed that the loss rate of very slow free neutrons appeared to depend on the direction and strength of the magnetic field applied.

This type of field could be created by mirror particles floating around in the galaxy as dark matter, according to the new paper. Hypothetically, the Earth could capture the mirror matter via very weak interactions between ordinary particles and those from parallel worlds.

Berezhiani and Nesti’s abstract:

Present experiments do not exclude that the neutron transforms into some invisible degenerate twin, so called mirror neutron, with an appreciable probability. These transitions are actively studied by monitoring neutron losses in ultra-cold neutron traps, where they can be revealed by their magnetic field dependence. In this work we reanalyze the experimental data acquired by the group of A.P. Serebrov at Institute Laue-Langevin, and find a dependence at more than 5 sigma away from the null hypothesis…. If confirmed by future experiments, this will have a number of deepest consequences in particle physics and astrophysics.

The oscillations between the parallel worlds could occur within a timescale of a few seconds, the team says.

“Each neutron would have the ability to transition into its invisible mirror twin, and back, oscillating from one world to the other,” the authors say.

This isn’t the first time the existence of mirror matter has been suggested and has been predicted to be sensitive to the presence of magnetic field such as Earth’s.

“The discovery of a parallel world via … oscillation and of a mirror magnetic back-ground at the Earth, striking in itself, would give crucial information on the accumulation the of dark matter in the solar system and in the Earth, due to its interaction with normal matter, with far reaching implications for physics of the sun and even for geophysics,” the team writes in their paper.

Lead image caption: Artists concept of dark matter in the Universe. Credit: NASA

Sources: arXiv, PhysOrg, SciNews


12 Responses

  1. Member
    Hematite says

    So what would this mean for the conservation of energy? Suppose one of the Neutrons decayed on the “other side”, wouldn’t that count as a loss of energy and even information?

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      I don’t think unitarity (the quantum form of information) is threatened, as a loss would show up on both sides. Likely they can march this passed some elementary tests. Doesn’t make it right tho’…

  2. Olaf2 says

    It would only account for the same amount of visible neutron mass, and there is far more dark matter than visible neutron mass.

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  3. lcrowell says

    Mirror matter is an idea which presumes to recover CP symmetry. CP violations occur in our universe so the spin of a lepton is in the opposite direction of its momentum. This is particularly the case with the neutrino. Of course if the particle has mass one could in principle boost to a very fast frame so the particle is moving in the opposite direction. Yet on average the chirality of the universe is left handed; the spin is in the opposite direction as the momentum. To recover CP symmetry in some greater generality it is posited there is a world which is the CP violation is the mirror, right handed, of particles in the observed world.

    So what is the problem with this idea? For one it is possible for the two mirror particles to interchange, and interactions could cause a photon to transition into its mirror photon. This would cause some physics which would likely run counter to what is observed. The problem with assigning dark matter with mirror particles or neutrons is that dark matter is nearly 5 times the mass value of ordinary matter. This runs into trouble with the exact symmetry the mirror particle theory is meant to solve.

    I would tend to put their theory in my “I doubt it file.”

  4. Member
    Aqua4U says

    This reminded me of Larry Spring’s oscillating matter theory for the propagation of radiation. Considered ‘whack’ by most physicists, his lack of credentials has illiminated him from the conversation… Never the less, an interesting intellectual exercise?

    • Torbjörn Larsson says

      If it had reminded you of an existing theory, like Dirac’s sea of anti-electrons, it would have meant something in the context. Supporting an untested theory by another, or worse, rejected theory, just looks like taking an opportunity to push for pseudoscience.

  5. Torbjörn Larsson says

    The non-unity baryonic/dark matter ratio immediately hit me as the very problem the idea should solve as well.

    I give a thumbs up to a thumbs down.

    [ADDED: The new Disqus editor has a bug. You can’t move the exact same comment around because “you have already said that”.]

  6. What if the decay products stay trapped in the mirror universe and over
    time accumulated to the observed dark matter mass we see today.

  7. Jossarian says

    NOPE. No mirror neutrons seen in this Sigma 10 measurement:

    Anyway, I liked this part with “parallel words”…

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