On Axions, WIMPs and WISPs: Looking Out for Candidates of Dark Matter

Conference and workshop at Mainz University deal with the search for dark matter: hypothetical elementary particles in focus


Dark matter composes about 23 percent of the universe while visible matter amounts to only about five percent. Although the share of dark matter thus seems to be high, dark matter is fairly difficult to detect. The mere existence of dark matter was postulated as late as in the 1930s based on astronomical observations. Until now, dark matter particles have not been identified but the search for them occupies the minds of physicists around the world. Many of these renowned scientists from the fields of theoretical and experimental physics will be meeting from June 24 to June 28, 2013 for a conference at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.

About 90 scientists are expected to participate in the conference „9th Patras Workshop on Axions, WIMPs, and WISPs” taking place at Schloss Waldthausen near Mainz. The Patras meetings are held annually with the last event held in Chicago. “The series can be characterized by its dynamics and innovation potential. The participants discuss very diverse ideas about the structure of dark matter and other exotic particles, as well as new experimental research methods,” states professor Uwe Oberlack, local organizer of the event from the Institute of Physics. “Usually, we also see very lively discussions,” he adds.

This year, the discussions will focus on hypothetical elementary particles such as axions and WIMPs. Axions are light dark matter particles, WIMPs count among the heavy and weakly interacting particles of dark matter. In addition, axion-like particles (ALPs) and other light weakly interacting particles such as WISPs will be discussed. “Another focus of the event is set on so-called ‘dark’ radiation,” explains Oberlack. Dark radiation is related to hypothetical photons. They are suspected to be the transmitters of a so-far undetected force.

Directly following the Patras convention, the Mainz Institute of Theoretical Physics (MITP) organizes another event on dark matter. At the workshop  “Cosmic-Rays and Photons from Dark Matter Annihilation: Theoretical Issues,“ the institute seeks to bring together scientists dealing with the physics and astrophysics of the destruction and/or annihilation of dark matter in dark halos. The indirect detection of dark matter by means of galactic cosmic rays and photon emission has currently again moved to the center of scientific attention after observations such as positron surplus and tentative gamma-ray lines indicated the existence of dark matter. 

“Both events, the conference and the workshop, are touching on central research concentrations of the Excellence Cluster ”Precision Physics, Fundamental Interactions and Structure of Matter“ (PRISMA). The cluster was founded in 2012 within the Federal Excellence Initiative. Dark matter and new forces play a key role in the work of the PRISMA scientists. They also take part in some of the recent most promising international experiments on WIMPs and axions; among them the XENON experiment conducted in the Gran Sasso underground lab in Italy, the IceCube experiment in the Antarctic and the ATLAS experiment at the famous LHC-accelerator at the CERN research center in Geneva. As one of its core initiatives, PRISMA in 2012 founded the theory institute MITP. It provides scientists from different research areas of theoretical physics with excellent opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange. For this purpose, MITP in cooperation with external scientists also organizes scientific programs such as workshops and conferences.