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The Question

(Submitted July 13, 2000)

Do the concepts of solitons and instantons help or play a role in explaining dark matter or the missing mass of the universe?

The Answer

Dark matter research requires the combined efforts of astrophysicists, cosmologists and particle physicists. We at the "Ask an Astrophysicist" service can tell you a lot about the astrophysical aspects of dark matter research; particle physics is somewhat outside our areas of expertise, however.

We do belive that much of the dark matter is non-baryonic.

A part of this is likely to be massive neutrinos. Recent research on neutrino oscillations (apparent mutation of neutrinos from one type to another) strongly suggests they do have rest masses. They appear to be insufficient to account for all the astrophysically inferred dark matter mass in the Universe, though.

The rest are thought to be more exotic particles, with names like axions, photinos, and so on. Our understanding is that there are plenty of theoretical candidates for what the dark matter may consist of, but no experimental evidence of a specific type of exotic particles. We do not know if the concepts of solitons and instantons are relevant, or useful, to particle physicists working on the dark matter: you may want to check particle physics-oriented web sites, such as:

http://www.superstringtheory.com/

Best wishes,

Koji Mukai & Bram Boroson
for "Ask an Astrophysicist"

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