One of the great mysteries of modern astrophysics is the nature of dark matter. This is the mysterious stuff that astrophysicists say must exist to provide the gravitational forces necessary to hold galaxies together.

The general consensus is that there is around five times as much dark matter as visible matter in the universe. And this raises obvious questions: what is this stuff and how can we detect it?

These questions have triggered an almighty race among physicists to detect dark matter and measure its characteristics. But the results of their experiments are puzzling and contradictory. Some labs are claiming to have detected the stuff while others appear to rule out the possibility.

What’s needed, of course, is more data from a greater variety of detectors. And today, Alejandro Lopez-Suarez at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a few pals propose a novel idea. They hope to detect dark matter by the effect it has on explosives.

Their plan is to create small explosive particles that are sensitive enough to detonate when hit by a lump of dark matter. Having done this, the physicists then sit back and wait for the ensuing fireworks.

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