Minnesota dark matter news may have been premature

Last week we learned that scientists were all abuzz about the possibility that the first Earth-bound dark matter may have been discovered deep inside a mine in Soudan, and that proof of the discovery was going to be published in an upcoming edition of the science journal Nature.

Whether or not such dark matter exists at the University of Minnesota's Soudan facility, up north between Ely and Virginia, a Nature editor has thrown cold water on the notion that the highly-regarded magazine is going to carry a paper about it. Here's what the magazine's editor for physical sciences, Leslie Sage, said in an e-mail to the science blog REASONANNCES, which covers the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search project.

Your "fact" #1, that Nature is about to publish a CDMS paper on dark matter, is completely false. This would be instantly obvious to the most casual observer because the purported date of publication is a Friday, and Nature is published on Thursdays. Your "fact" therefore contains as much truth as the average Fox News story, and I would be grateful if you would correct it immediately.

Your comments about the embargo are therefore, within this context, ridiculous. Peer review is a process, the culmination of which is publication. We regard confidentiality of results during the process as a matter of professional ethics, though of course authors are free to post to arxiv at any point during the process (we will not interfere with professional communication of results to peers).

Which sounds a lot like, "Even if we were in the process of preparing a paper on dark matter, you'd be the last person to know."

Either way, new CDMS data is still scheduled to be released on Dec. 18.

Dark matter is a big deal to physicists investigating the big bang theory behind the creation of the universe. NASA has proved its existence in space, but physicists have tried in vain to identify dark matter on Earth since the 1930s. There have been false alarms about its discovery before.

We'll keep you posted.

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