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Scaled-Up Darkness

Could a single dark matter particle be light-years wide?
galaxy



B.J. MENDEZ/UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY/KECK OBSERVATORY

In 1996 Discover magazine ran an April Fools' story about giant particles called "bigons" that could be responsible for all sorts of inexplicable phenomena. Now, in a case of life imitating art, some physicists are proposing that the universe's mysterious dark matter consists of great big particles, light-years or more across. Amid the jostling of these titanic particles, ordinary matter ekes out its existence like shrews scurrying about the feet of the dinosaurs.

This idea arose to explain a puzzling fact about dark matter: although it clumps on the vastest scales, creating bodies such as galaxy clusters, it seems to resist clumping on smaller scales. Astronomers see far fewer small galaxies and subgalactic gas clouds than a simple extrapolation from clusters would imply. Accordingly, many have suggested that the particles that make up dark matter interact with one another like molecules in a gas, generating a pressure that counterbalances the force of gravity.

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