Forbes writes about the race to detect dark matter. We still know very little about the nature of dark matter but it's believed by some scientists that some breakthroughs may happen very soon.
Whoever discovers the nature of dark matter would solve one of modern science's greatest mysteries and be a shoo-in for the Nobel Prize. Yet it's more than just a brainy exercise. Deciphering dark matter - along with a better understanding of another mysterious force called dark energy - could help reveal the fate of the universe.
Previous hunts for the hypothetical matter have turned up nothing, but that has not deterred some two dozen research teams from plumbing the darkness of idled mines and tunnel shafts for a fleeting glimpse.
Dark-matter detecting machines today are more powerful than previous generations, but even the best has failed so far to catch a whiff of the stuff. Many teams are now building bigger detectors or toying with novel technologies to aid in the hunt.
"We're in the golden age of dark matter search," said Sean Carroll, a California Institute of Technology theoretical physicist who has no role in the experiments. "It's looking good for some breakthroughs to happen."
Scientists admittedly are still in the dark about dark matter. The prevailing theory is that it's made up of tiny, exotic particles left over from the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. Dark matter, thought to make up a quarter of the universe's mass, gets its name because it doesn't give off light or heat. Astronomers know it exists because of its gravitational tug-of-war with stars and galaxies.