This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

The Dark-Matter Ages

The U.S. may be losing its place as the world leader in frontier physics research.

Ron Sowers and Kim Reller at the 6950 Level in the Sanford Underground Lab
Photograph by Tom Regan/

Early this month, a new, deep underground laboratory officially opened in the former Homestake Gold Mine in Lead, S.D. The Sanford Underground Lab’s main aim: to discover the nature of the mysterious “dark matter” that accounts for almost 90 percent of mass in the universe. Dark matter is thought to be made up of an exotic, as of yet undefined type of elementary particle left over from the Big Bang and different in nature than those that make up visible matter. Similar deep underground laboratories exist in Canada and Europe. But there is one notable difference between the South Dakota laboratory and its competitors: The bulk of the funds for building the South Dakota laboratory were provided by a private individual, billionaire philanthropist Denny Sanford (though the U.S. Department of Energy has now taken over funding the lab’s operation and ongoing experiments).

The opening of a new laboratory should be cause for celebration, but there is an unpleasant subtext here. The Homestake site was supposed to house a far more ambitious new National Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, which would provide the deepest site on earth, allowing for scientific investigations into topics from dark matter to evolutionary biology. In 2010, however, the National Science Foundation—which had commissioned several R and D studies for such a laboratory and which had picked Homestake as one of two possible sites—decided to drop out of the project. Thus ended the prospect of a new national laboratory, and South Dakota, Sanford, and the DOE were forced to scramble to keep the smaller scale operation afloat. The deepest underground laboratory will remain in Sudbury, Canada—meaning that the United States has again ceded leadership in this aspect of laboratory infrastructure supporting frontier physics and astronomy.

Read more



Nasa's Curiosity rover zaps Mars rock

Jonathan Amos - BBC News Comments

Pew pew pew pew

Sun Is Roundest Natural Object Known

Dave Mosher - National Geographic Comments

The sun is the roundest natural object ever precisely measured, astronomers say.

Book written in DNA code

Geraint Jones - The Guardian Comments

Scientists who encoded the book say it could soon be cheaper to store information in DNA than in conventional digital devices

Prisoners pitch in to save endangered...

Ed Yong - Nature News Comments

Under the supervision of guards and graduate students, a small group of prisoners is breeding the beautiful orange-and-white insects in a greenhouse outside the prison. They have even carried out research to show what plants the butterfly prefers to lay its eggs on.

U.S. Should Adopt Higher Standards for...

- - Scientific American Comments

Teachers, scientists and policymakers have drafted ambitious new education standards. All 50 states should adopt them

17-year-old girl builds artificial...

John Roach - NBC News Comments

An artificial “brain” built by a 17-year-old whiz kid from Florida is able to accurately assess tissue samples for signs of breast cancer, providing more confidence to a minimally invasive procedure.



A Blip That Speaks of Our Place in the...

Lawrence M. Krauss - New York Times Comments

A Blip That Speaks of Our Place in the Universe

How the Higgs Boson Posits a New Story...

Lawrence M. Krauss - The Daily Beast Comments

How the Higgs Boson Posits a New Story of our Creation

Does Religious Liberty Equal Freedom to...

Lawrence M. Krauss -... 78 Comments

Does Religious Liberty Equal Freedom to Discriminate?

The Consolation of Philosophy

Lawrence M. Krauss - Scientific... 72 Comments

An update by the author of "A Universe from Nothing" on his thoughts, as a theoretical physicist, about the value of the discipline of philosophy

A universe without purpose

Lawrence M. Krauss - Los Angeles Times 87 Comments

A universe without purpose

Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous...

Lawrence M. Krauss - Huffington Post 107 Comments

Does Conservatism Have to Be Synonymous With Ignorance?



Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment