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An elusive hypothetical particle comes in imitation form.

Lurking within a solid crystal is a phenomenon that is mathematically similar to proposed subatomic particles called axions, physicist Johannes Gooth and colleagues report online October 7 in Nature.

If axions exist as fundamental particles, they could constitute a hidden form of matter in the cosmos, dark matter. Scientists know dark matter exists thanks to its gravitational pull, but they have yet to identify what it is. Axions are one possibility, but no one has found the particles yet (SN: 4/9/18).

Enter the imitators. The axions analogs within the crystal are a type of quasiparticle, a disturbance in a material that can mimic fundamental particles like axions. Quasiparticles result from the coordinated jostling of electrons within a solid material. It’s a bit like how birds in a flock seem to take on new forms by syncing up their movements.

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Category: Science