Is dark matter the most powerful wave in the universe?


By Kimberly Hickok

Dark matter could consist of particles so ultralight, they behave more like waves.

Although the motions of galaxies provide evidence that dark matter exists, scientists have yet to directly detect the invisible stuff, or figure out what it could be made of.

The prevailing theory over the past several decades has been that dark matter is made up of particles that act like teeny, tiny billiard balls bouncing around in space. Considering that all the matter we can see is made up of particles that behave that way, the idea seems logical. But in recent years, a growing number of physicists have been exploring the hypothesis that dark matter primarily exists in a different form: invisible waves.

“Instead of particles bouncing around you, you’re living in waves.”

To be wavelike suggests that dark matter is ultralight—a millionth or even billionth the mass of an electron. From cosmological observations, scientists have an estimate of the total mass of all dark matter in the universe; the lighter dark matter particles are, the more profuse they would need to be to add up to that amount. This cascade of almost massless dark matter would act like smooth waves in water.

Imagine waves in the ocean flowing toward shore and pushing a swimmer around, says Lindley Winslow, an experimental nuclear and particle physicist and associate professor at MIT. “You don't have those interference patterns, but rather coherent waves. That’s what wavelike dark matter is doing. Instead of particles bouncing around you, you’re living in waves.”

Multiple theories describe different versions of wavelike dark matter. Physicists’ current favorite candidate is the quantum chromodynamics axion, or QCD axion.

In the late 1970s, particle physicists Roberto Peccei and Helen Quinn were looking to solve a longstanding quandary in nuclear physics known as the CP problem. The problem arose in experimental results when the symmetry between matter and antimatter particles seemed broken in a way that violated physicists’ current understanding of the universe.

When Peccei and Quinn proposed a mechanism that could reconcile results with theory, they realized that this mechanism would produce a particle: the QCD axion. QCD axions would be ultralight particles that would not interact with much, but their gravitational pull could explain the motion of galaxies attributed to dark matter.

Alternative wavelike dark matter candidates fit into different theories that solve different problems. “What's cool about axion-like particles is that they may be relics from higher order theories,” Winslow says. “For example, they would be the first proof that something like string theory exists and is the right way to understand the universe.”

Another wavelike dark matter candidate is the dark photon, which “you can think of as being like a cousin of the photon,” says Tien-Tien Yu, a particle phenomenologist and associate professor at the University of Oregon.

The dark photon would be similar to the photon, except that it would have a very small electromagnetic charge and could also have a mass, she says.

The way scientists search for wavelike dark matter is quite different from the way they search for dark matter particles, Yu says. “In the particle case, you’re looking for one particle that either scatters or absorbs. Whereas with wavelike dark matter, you’re looking for a large number of particles that are working together.”

So instead of looking for particles bouncing off things like billiard balls, scientists are searching for something more akin to a radio signal, says Gray Rybka, an associate professor at the University of Washington and co-spokesperson for the Axion Dark Matter Experiment, ADMX. “Most of our experiment to detect wavelike dark matter is essentially a very fancy AM radio with a magnetic apparatus to convert axions into microwaves.”

The ADMX experiment, based at the University of Washington and sponsored by the US Department of Energy, consists of a large magnet, a microwave cavity and ultra-sensitive low-noise quantum electronics. “In essence, we’re looking for a constant stream of power that seems to be coming from nowhere, but it's actually dark matter,” he says.

The search for wavelike dark matter, like the search for particles of dark matter, involves trying to detect a faint signal that would be difficult to tell apart from a flurry of other things that can mimic that signal. “So understanding everything that could possibly look like what you're trying to look for is a big, big challenge,” Yu says.

To increase the chances of detection, a group of physicists from the University of California, Irvine, the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan, and the University of Delaware recently proposed an experiment that would send atomic clocks to the inner reaches of our solar system, between Mercury and the sun, where some models predict a higher density of dark matter and presumably a greater chance of detecting it. The researchers forecast that sensitive and precise atomic clocks could detect the slight perturbations in the electromagnetic field caused by wavelike dark matter.

“This is really a time for maximum originality and creativity,” says Yu-Dai Tsai, a postdoctoral scholar at UCI and the lead author proposing the atomic clock experiment. “We need to break the boundaries between disciplines and support cross-frontier efforts.”

For Yu, the interdisciplinary nature of dark matter research is precisely what keeps the search so compelling. “A lot of efforts to look for wavelike dark matter bring together fairly different communities to create new ways of thinking about the problem,” she says. “That’s exciting to me, because as scientists we’re all after the same goal, which is simply to understand how our world and the universe works.”


Wave Dark Matter
Lam Hui (Columbia University)
27 January 2021

The wave nature of the dark matter implies the following phenomenology: (1) Wave interference leads to order unity density fluctuations on de Broglie scale. A manifestation is vortices where the density vanishes and around which the velocity circulates. There is one vortex ring per de Broglie volume on average. (2) For sufficiently low masses, soliton condensation occurs at centers of halos. The soliton oscillates and random walks, another manifestation of wave interference. The halo/subhalo abundance is suppressed at small masses, but the precise prediction from numerical wave simulations remains to be determined. (3) For ultra-light ~10−22 eV dark matter, the wave interference substructures can be probed by tidal streams/gravitational lensing. The signal can be distinguished from that due to subhalos by the dependence on stream orbital radius/image separation. (4) Axion detection experiments are sensitive to interference substructures for moderately light masses. The stochastic nature of the waves affects the interpretation of experiments and motivates the measurement of correlation functions. Current constraints and open questions covering detection experiments and cosmological/galactic/black-hole observations are discussed.

We take a broad perspective on wave dark matter (m <∼ 30 eV), and discuss novel features that distinguish it from particle dark matter (m >∼ 30 eV). The underlying wave dynamics is the same whether the dark matter is ultra-light like fuzzy dark matter, or merely light like the QCD axion. The length scale of the wave phenomena (i.e. the de Broglie wavelength) depends of course on the mass. For the higher masses, the length scales are small, which can be probed by laboratory detection experiments.

Dark matter wave interference substructures, of which vortices are a dramatic manifestation, are a unique signature of wave dark matter. It is worth stressing that while the wave nature of dark matter leads to a suppression of small scale power in the linear regime, it leads to the opposite effect in the nonlinear regime, by virtue of interference.

Einstein equations tell us this sources an oscillating gravitational potential. In Newtonian gauge, with the
spatial part of the metric as gij = (1 − 2Ψ)δij , the gravitational potential Ψ has a constant piece that obeys the usual Poisson equation ∇2Ψ = 4πGρ, and an oscillating part obeying −Ψ ∼ 4πGP. Thus Ψ oscillates with frequency 2m and amplitude πGρ/m . In other words, the oscillating part of Ψ is suppressed compared to the constant part by k /m . The typical (constant part of) gravitational potential is of the order 10−6 in the Milky Way; the oscillating part is then about 10
proposed by Khmelnitsky & Rubakov (2014).



Dark matter that consists of ultralight particles called scalars could also produce a signal in an interferometer like GEO600, in Germany. The particles would have a mass less than one-quintillionth of that of a proton, too little to create a signal by bouncing off a nucleus. To generate dark matter’s gravitational effects, however, huge numbers of the particles would have to be jammed into every cubic centimeter of space. According to quantum mechanics, such light-weight particles act less like particles and more like waves, with wavelengths kilometers long. Hordes of them permeating Earth should form one big overlapping wave.

When that wave of dark matter passes through the interferometer, Hartmut Grote, an experimental physicist at Cardiff University and a member of the GEO600 collaboration, says, it could make all the material objects in the interferometer expand and contract very slightly. Were the device entirely symmetrical, that throbbing would have no effect. However, the light in one arm of the interferometer reflects off the surface of the beam splitter while the light in the other passes through it. Because of that key difference, if the beam splitter itself expands and contracts, the light detector would pick up a signal. Whereas a gravitational wave generates a short-lived chirp, Grote says, the ever-present dark matter wave should produce a steady hum at a frequency set by dark matter particles’ mass.
and matter waves (which describe the behavior of subatomic particles)
And are these "matter" waves measurable?

I am referring to Bohmian mechanics where David Bohm proposed a universal Pilot wave that would also solve the particle/wave duality and show that in the double slit experiment, instead of particles possessing dual properties, they do not propagate as a wave function , but as physical matter "riding" a much larger universal Pilot wave.

To verify the similarities between Copenhagen Interpretation and Bohmian Mechanics there is no difference in behavior of the particle measurements.

Bohmian Interpretation of quantum mechanics
The Bohmian Interpretation and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. In the Bohmian Interpretation, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle holds, just as it does in the Copenhagen Interpretation: The greater the certainty in the measurement of momentum, the less the certainty in the measurement of position. Oct 15, 2019

Could Dark Matter as a wave be Bohm's Universal Pilot wave?
Apr 9, 2023
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No, dark matter is not a wave, and it is not considered the most powerful wave in the universe. Dark matter is a type of matter that is believed to make up approximately 85% of the matter in the universe, but it does not emit, absorb, or reflect light, which makes it difficult to detect directly.

There are many types of waves in the universe, including electromagnetic waves such as light and radio waves, gravitational waves, and others. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space-time that are caused by the acceleration of massive objects, such as two black holes merging. Gravitational waves are extremely powerful, and they can travel through the universe virtually undisturbed by matter, but they are not related to dark matter. Public Notice Ad in Newspaper
Gravitational waves are extremely powerful, and they can travel through the universe virtually undisturbed by matter, but they are not related to dark matter.
I am not sure I agree with that statement .
AFAIK, a wave requires a medium which must be a form of matter .

In physics, mathematics, and related fields, a wave is a propagating dynamic disturbance (change from equilibrium) of one or more quantities.
Waves can be periodic, in which case those quantities oscillate repeatedly about an equilibrium (resting) value at some frequency.
When the entire waveform moves in one direction, it is said to be a traveling wave; by contrast, a pair of superimposed periodic waves traveling in opposite directions makes a standing wave.
In a standing wave, the amplitude of vibration has nulls at some positions where the wave amplitude appears smaller or even zero.
Waves are often described by a wave equation (standing wave field of two opposite waves) or a one-way wave equation for single wave propagation in a defined direction.

Pilot Wave Theory
A collection of particles has an associated matter wave which evolves according to the Schrödinger equation. Each particle follows a deterministic trajectory, which is guided by the wave function; collectively, the density of the particles conforms to the magnitude of the wave function. The wave function is not influenced by the particle and can exist also as an empty wave function.[19]
Empty wave function
Lucien Hardy and John Stewart Bell have emphasized that in the de Broglie–Bohm picture of quantum mechanics there can exist empty waves, represented by wave functions propagating in space and time but not carrying energy or momentum, and not associated with a particle.

According to Causal Dynamical Triangulation (CDT) spacetime itself is a form of fractal matter.

Causal Dynamical Triangulation
Causal dynamical triangulation (abbreviated as CDT) theorized by Renate Loll, Jan Ambjørn and Jerzy Jurkiewicz, is an approach to quantum gravity that, like loop quantum gravity, is background independent.
This means that it does not assume any pre-existing arena (dimensional space), but rather attempts to show how the spacetime fabric itself evolves.
Question; can this evolving spacetime fabric unfold in a wavelike manner?
There is evidence [1] that at large scales CDT approximates the familiar 4-dimensional spacetime, but shows spacetime to be 2-dimensional near the Planck scale, and reveals a fractal structure on slices of constant time.
These interesting results agree with the findings of Lauscher and Reuter, who use an approach called Quantum Einstein Gravity, and with other recent theoretical work.
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