Physics: Not a WISP of evidence

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Cited research: Phys. Lett. B doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2010.04.066 (2010)

In extensions to the standard model, which describes the fundamental particles and forces of physics, some theorists have proposed the existence of very light subatomic particles called WISPs. These could be dark matter, which keeps a spinning galaxy from flying apart.

One way to detect WISPs would be to look for the rare conversion of light particles to WISPs, and later back to photons. In between these conversions, a WISP could zip through any barrier. So Axel Lindner at DESY, the German electron synchrotron in Hamburg, and his colleagues shone green laser light at a 'wall', a thick piece of light-absorbing material, hoping that a few photons might pop out the other side. They increased the chances of a WISP conversion by using optical resonators to boost the power of the laser light and by applying a strong magnetic field. But the researchers did not detect any emerging photons, limiting the chance of a WISP conversion to nearly 1 in 1025 — the most sensitive limit yet. E.H.

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