UConn physics professor sheds some light on the dark matter dilemma

University of Connecticut professor Dr. Philip Mannheim gave a presentation on dark matter hosted by the Department of Physics. Dr. Mannheim has been a UConn professor since 1979. Photo courtesy of physics.uconn.edu.

Tuesday morning, the University of Connecticut Department of Physics hosted an astronomy seminar featuring a presentation about dark matter from Professor Philip Mannheim, an elementary particle theorist. In Dr. Mannheim’s seminar, he presented the idea that characteristics of the universe that have traditionally been attributed to dark matter may have explanations that do not rely entirely on there being missing matter. Instead, the matter that we can detect luminous matter is enough. 

“What I really want to do is to tell you what the data says,” Dr. Mannheim said. “Now, the data can never say there’s no dark matter, but I’m going to show you that there are irregularities in the data which are going to be very difficult for dark matter to explain.” 

Dark matter is a mystery the physics community has been investigating for about the past hundred years. There are many different astrophysical observations that suggest its existence. One of these observations is according to the different principles of gravitation described by Isaac Newton (Newtonian gravity) and Albert Einstein (general relativity). The total force of gravity within galaxies is stronger than it theoretically should be based on the total amount of matter in the galaxies. Therefore, there must be more matter (dark matter) that scientists have so far been unable to detect. 

Mannheim discussed several of the previous theories that have been offered as possible explanations for the dark matter mystery. Some of the ideas discussed were our telescopes are not sophisticated enough to see dark matter and that the mysterious characteristics described can be attributed to massive compact halo objects (MACHOs) and weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs). Some of the previous explanations for dark matter have already been disproven. Mannheim explained why the theories that have not necessarily been disproven are not supported by sufficient evidence to end the search for dark matter.  

“We now know today that extensive searches … which I’ll describe in a few moments, have yet to find any of these WIMPs,” Mannheim said. “Now, they’re not ruled out, but they’re far from being ruled in.” 

After discussing the history of research into dark matter, Dr. Mannheim went into his own research on the subject. This consisted of a technical dive into the data he has worked with, including measurements and graphs describing the motion of galaxies. He also presented the formulas that have arisen from this research.  

Dr. Mannheim completed his undergraduate education at Oxford University in England, then later received both his master’s and Ph.D. from The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Mannheim conducts research in grand unification and in dynamical models of mass generation. He is actively involved in the study of astrophysics, cosmology, elementary particle theory, many-body theory and general relativity. Mannheim has been a UConn professor since 1979 and has 128 publications to his name. 

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