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Scientists might have solved the mystery of dark matter and dark energy, one of the most mysterious and troubling parts of the entire universe.

And the solution might have been entirely simple all along: astrophysicists had just forgotten to add a simple minus sign.

Dark matter is perhaps the biggest question in astrophysics. Our current model suggests that there is vast amounts of energy and matter – 95 per cent of the universe – which must exist but is simply missing and which we cannot see.

We know about the two phenomena because of the effects they have on other matter that we can see. But we know nothing about them directly, including what they might be physically made up of.

An Oxford University scientist has suggested a new theory that would bring them together, solving a question that has haunted astronomers and astrophysicists for decades.

Dr Farnes suggests that both dark energy and dark matter are a fluid that possess "negative mass". That means in effect that it would be the inversion of normal mass: if you pushed it, it would be propelled towards you.

The implications of such a breakthrough suggestion are huge, offering a solution to what that vast amount of missing stuff might be.

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