The Week (US)

Lightning and dark matter


Astronomer­s and physicists have spent

decades searching for dark matter, the elusive particles thought to account for 85 percent of the matter in the universe. Their efforts have always come up short. A team of researcher­s has now suggested a new strategy to find the stuff: by examining lightning bolts. Their theory is that dark matter is made up not of elementary particles but of macroscopi­c clumps of matter, reports Smithsonia­ They think these “macros” whizz through space at up to 300 miles per second. If one of these macros were to pass through our atmosphere, it would produce a straight channel of ionized plasma—which, if it coincided with an electrical storm, would produce a ramrod-straight lightning bolt. Alas, no such lightning bolt has ever been spotted. But the researcher­s say this may simply be because people aren’t looking hard enough. “If we’re lucky,” says coauthor Glenn Starkman, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, “we’ll discover that actually there are straight lightning bolts, and we just haven’t been monitoring them.”

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