This Physicist Says Dark Matter May Have Killed Off The Dinosaurs

ImageContent(562cf656e4b0ec0a3894bf61,5627b0af1400002200c7a763,Image,HectorAssetUrl(5627b0af1400002200c7a763,Some(),Some(jpeg)),Rose Lincoln, Harvard staff photographer,Dr. Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr. professor of science at Harvard University)

As every astronomy buff knows, dark matter is pretty elusive stuff.

We can’t see it. We can’t hear it or feel it, and we certainly can’t smell or taste it. Even with the world’s most sophisticated scientific gear, there’s no direct proof that the long-hypothesized form of matter exists at all–though the universe is now believed to be full of the stuff.

But if its existence is no longer in doubt, plenty of questions remain about dark matter–including what sorts of particles it’s made of. And along with other leading scientists, Harvard physicist Lisa Randall (above) is trying to answer those questions.

Recently, HuffPost senior science editor David Freeman caught up with Randall, who has penned a provocative new book entitled “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs,” and asked a few questions via email aimed at shedding more light on this fascinating topic:

What is dark matter?

It’s an elusive form of matter that interacts through gravity like ordinary matter but that doesn’t emit or absorb light. Dark matter seems to exist throughout the universe. But we don’t perceive it directly–only through its gravitational influence–because it interacts so feebly with the ordinary matter that we’re all familiar with.

Is dark matter made of atoms?

No. It’s not composed of atoms or the familiar elementary particles such as protons and electrons that are charged and therefore do interact with light. But it may be that dark matter is composed of particles whose mass is comparable to those we know. If that’s the case, and if those particles travel at the velocities we expect, billions of dark matter particles pass through each of us every second. Yet no one notices that they are there.

If it’s invisible, why call it “dark?”

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