Is dark matter locked up in primordial black holes?

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Dark matter pie

Dark matter pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be honest, I have an issue with both “dark matter” and “dark energy” – they both look like close-to-metaphysical constructs to me: we have a hole where theory and observation do not match so we’ll invent this latter-day phlogiston and call it “dark”.

Then again, I’m not really qualified to comment and it is pretty clear that observations point to missing mass and energy.

I have another issue – if most of the mass of the universe is in the “dark matter” why is there no obvious evidence of it nearby? I don’t mean why can’t we see it – as obviously that is the point – but even though we sit in an area (Earth) of local gravitational field maximum we are struggling to see any local mass effects. (For instance this paper talks about how “local” conditions should impact any dark matter wind but, as far as I can see at least, it’s all entirely theoretical: we haven’t seen any dark matter wind at all.)

So the suggestion – reported in the New Scientist – and outlined in this paper – that actually dark matter is locked up in black holes caused by sound wave compression in the earliest moments of the universe has an appeal. It also potentially fits with the observational evidence that dark matter appears to be knocking around in the halos of galaxies.

These primordial black holes are not a new concept – Bernard Carr and Stephen Hawking wrote about them in 1974 (in this paper). The new evidence for their potential as stores of dark matter comes from the already famous Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment – as that leaves open the prospect that the two black holes that generated the detected gravitational waves could both be in a galactic halo and of the right mass spectrum to suggest they and similar bodies accounted for the gravitational pull we see from dark matter.

All this is quite speculative – the paper points the way to a new generation of experiments rather than proclaims an epoch making discovery, but it’s obviously very interesting and also suggests that the long search for WIMPS – the hypothesised weakly interacting particles that have previously been the favourites as an explanation for dark matter – has essentially been in vain.