Researchers at the Gran Sasso laboratory

March 3, 2000

Researchers at the Gran Sasso laboratory believe they have detected particles that could explain one of the great mysteries of the universe. The details of the discovery will be announced this week in Marina del Re, California, at an international convention on "dark matter".

The Gran Sasso team, led by a group of physicists from Rome's Tor Vergata University and including four scientists from the Chinese Academy of Science, believes in the possibility that particles known as wimps (weakly interacting massive particles) may constitute the dark matter that is thought to make up about 90 per cent of the cosmos and to be responsible for the gravitational forces that hold the galaxies together.

The Gran Sasso researchers, using very sensitive instruments, have noticed seasonal variations in the quantity of what they have christened "neutralinos". It is possible that the changing quantities of wimps/neutralinos mean that they are of astronomical origin.

However, both the president of the commission that is overseeing the project and the head of the Italian nuclear physics institute have declared that there is still a long way to go before one can speak of an actual "discovery". So far it is all hypothetical.

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