National Geographic News
The ''bullet cluster''.

The Bullet cluster (above) is considered to be among the best pieces of evidence for dark matter.

Image courtesy STScI, U. Arizona, CfA, CXC, NASA

Ker Than

for National Geographic News

Published August 31, 2011

The mysterious substance known as dark matter may actually be an illusion created by gravitational interactions between short-lived particles of matter and antimatter, a new study says.

Dark matter is thought to be an invisible substance that makes up almost a quarter of the mass in the universe. The concept was first proposed in 1933 to explain why the outer galaxies in galaxy clusters orbit faster than they should, based on the galaxies' visible mass.

(Related: "Dark-Matter Galaxy Detected: Hidden Dwarf Lurks Nearby?")

At the observed speeds, the outer galaxies should be flung out into space, since the clusters don't appear to have enough mass to keep the galaxies at their edges gravitationally bound.

So physicists proposed that the galaxies are surrounded by halos of invisible matter. This dark matter provides the extra mass, which in turn creates gravitational fields strong enough to hold the clusters together.

In the new study, physicist Dragan Hajdukovic at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland proposes an alternative explanation, based on something he calls the "gravitational polarization of the quantum vacuum."

(Also see "Einstein's Gravity Confirmed on a Cosmic Scale.")

Empty Space Filled With "Virtual" Particles

The quantum vacuum is the name physicists give to what we see as empty space.

According to quantum physics, empty space is not actually barren but is a boiling sea of so-called virtual particles and antiparticles constantly popping in and out of existence.

Antimatter particles are mirror opposites of normal matter particles. For example, an antiproton is a negatively charged version of the positively charged proton, one of the basic constituents of the atom.

(See "Antimatter Found Orbiting Earth—A First.")

When matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate in a flash of energy. The virtual particles spontaneously created in the quantum vacuum appear and then disappear so quickly that they can't be directly observed.

In his new mathematical model, Hajdukovic investigates what would happen if virtual matter and virtual antimatter were not only electrical opposites but also gravitational opposites—an idea some physicists previously proposed.

"Mainstream physics assumes that there is only one gravitational charge, while I have assumed that there are two gravitational charges," Hajdukovic said.

According to his idea, outlined in the current issue of the journal Astrophysics and Space Science, matter has a positive gravitational charge and antimatter a negative one.

That would mean matter and antimatter are gravitationally repulsive, so that an object made of antimatter would "fall up" in the gravitational field of Earth, which is composed of normal matter.

Particles and antiparticles could still collide, however, since gravitational repulsion is much weaker than electrical attraction.

(Related: "At Ten, Dark Energy 'Most Profound Problem' in Physics.")

How Galaxies Could Get Gravity Boost

While the idea of particle antigravity might seem exotic, Hajdukovic says his theory is based on well-established tenants in quantum physics.

For example, it's long been known that particles can team up to create a so-called electric dipole, with positively charge particles at one end and negatively charged particles at the other. (See "Universe's Existence May Be Explained by New Material.")

According to theory, there are countless electric dipoles created by virtual particles in any given volume of the quantum vacuum.

All of these electric dipoles are randomly oriented—like countless compass needles pointing every which way. But if the dipoles form in the presence of an existing electric field, they immediately align along the same direction as the field.

According to quantum field theory, this sudden snapping to order of electric dipoles, called polarization, generates a secondary electric field that combines with and strengthens the first field.

Hajdukovic suggests that a similar phenomenon happens with gravity. If virtual matter and antimatter particles have different gravitational charges, then randomly oriented gravitational dipoles would be generated in space.

If these gravitational dipoles form near a galaxy—a massive object that would have a strong gravitational field—the dipoles should become polarized.

This polarization would generate a secondary gravitational field that would combine with and strengthen the galaxy's gravitational field.

"My theory makes the gravitational field of a galaxy stronger—without dark matter," Hajdukovic said.

(Related: "New Proof Unknown 'Structures' Tug at Our Universe.")

Evidence for Dark Matter "Very Compelling"

Physicist David Evans called the new study a "very interesting theoretical exercise," but he said he isn't ready to abandon dark matter just yet.

"The evidence for dark matter is now very compelling," said Evans, of the University of Birmingham, who leads the U.K. team for the ALICE detector at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

For example, in 2006 astronomers unveiled a photo of two colliding galaxies known as the Bullet cluster that purportedly showed the separation of matter from dark matter.

A similar effect was observed in the Pandora cluster earlier this summer, said Evans, who was not involved in the study.

(Related: "Dark Matter Proof Found Over Antarctica?")

Hajdukovic said he is currently expanding his theory to account for these observations. His preliminary calculations, he said, suggest that "what is observed in the Bullet cluster and more recently at the Pandora cluster may be understood in the framework of the gravitational polarization of the quantum vacuum."

CERN physicist Michael Doser agreed that Hajdukovic's ideas are "unorthodox" but did not immediately dismiss the new theory.

"The mainstream view suffers from the lack of a detected dark matter particle, and so exploring a wide range of possibilities is at this moment perfectly legitimate, as long as they are compatible with all data," Doser said in an email.

Doser is a member of CERN's AEgIS experiment, which aims to measure the gravitational charge of antihydrogen, the antimatter version of hydrogen, and thus would prove whether matter and antimatter are gravitationally repulsive.

"In a few years," Doser said, "we should definitely be in a position to confirm or refute [Hajdukovic's] hypothesis."

Edgar Schonfelder
Edgar Schonfelder

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The problems of the universes expansion apparently speeding up while the galaxies do not appear to have enough mass is currently explained by dark energy and dark matter. This assumes that the gravitational constant is uniform in time and space. Given that the background radiation from the big bang is not totally uniform is it not possible that the properties of space are similarly not uniform and that the gravitational constant in particular is a local (on cosmic scale) property. This could replace the need for dark energy and dark matter.

Joey K
Joey K

Does anyone know if this Hypothesis has any evidence other than the fact it seems to mathematically satisfy the current observations? I'm looking into evaluating Dark Matter and its competitors. If this doesn't have any specifically is there another theory that might suggest a similar idea of repulsion that does have additional evidence?

Randy Potteiger
Randy Potteiger

expanding universe is the only  plausible theory that can solve the not enough matter problem not anti matter or dark matter or dark antimatter. if these things cant be manifest in a particle accelerator then they cant exist and just show up and be anhialated on a whim expansion accounts for the lack of matter to satisfy lack of necessary mass

Paul L.
Paul L.

While pondering the theory relating to Dark Matter, I came to the same conclusion, independent of Dr. Dragan Hajdukovic's study, relating to gravity.  I sought out such a theory, knowing that it absolutely must exist, and I discovered this article.  I believe Dr. Dragan Hajdukovic's  hypothesis relating to Gravity is the answer and will replace the theoretical mass of Dark Matter in the Universe, and bringing science closer to the GUT.

Joseph Korinek
Joseph Korinek

I just finished reading an artilce on the interwebz here:

It it the author discussed an alternative view of gravity and dark matter.

In my soul it feels right. I would propose that it goes further.

Iirc, The current thinking is that the big bang came with equal parts matter and antimatter. Immediately after this event, most to all of the existing antimatter "disappeared" and is assumed to be annihilated in the event and post.

Lets turn that on its ear for a moment. What if antimatter never disappeared at all?

What if antimatter had a previously unknown property of repulsion to matter? It is well known what happens to matter when it comes into contact with antimatter. However, all our testing has been at energies high enough to create antimatter so we can observe it.... if that is true, then we are only looking at it's behavior at extreme conditions, just as we are looking at matter at extreme conditions.

At ambient conditions, it behavior would likely be much like matter, only in repulsion to matter. So, here is the source of dark matter, and the source of gravity... the natural repulsion of antimatter, aka "Dark matter"

In other words, gravity is an effect of antimatter pressure.


Bimod Dev Panta
Bimod Dev Panta

I like the whole idea of vibrating particles in the space but later part of theory, suddenly comes the concept of gravity and anti gravity. I would extend this theory on the basis of ...

Tim G. Meloche
Tim G. Meloche

@Joey K 

The Dark Matter answer?

When the overall velocity curve of the stars that rotate around the galactic black hole in spiral galaxies was first observed there was an apparent problem. The stars orbiting velocities did not behave like the planets orbiting velocities in our solar system.Based on Newton’s theories there was something amiss. The physicists and mathematicians of the twentieth century created dark matter to make it all work as observed. The problem many years later is that dark matter has never been detected or observed. Now speed up to twenty-first century physics and the problem can be simply solved utilizing existing data and observations. Taking a closer look at what could be causing these relative velocity observations, this key to solving the whole problem of dark matter. Up to now only the dark matter solutions has been presented in main stream analysis. Consider this... stars orbiting around the central galactic black hole in the arms of spiral galaxies can have more than one gravitational attractive force working upon them at all times. These forces which originate from earlier time when the spiral galaxy started to form, then through time utilizing the gravitational accretion process of satellite galaxies and clusters to now. So it is best to re-examine data at this time incorporating these fresh ideas which lead to new and better understanding of nature. I am willing to help you understand these natural forces of gravity. Best Regards, Tim G. Meloche

Mark Annett
Mark Annett

@Joey K Hey Joey, you might be interested in this alternate theory that was presented at a recent Google Solve for X event  This presentation proposes using similar concepts to Hajdukovic but has actually developed them into a full Theory of  Everything.


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