dark matter
(NASA/ESA/Richard Massey)

Mysterious Dark Matter Could Interact with Gravity Non-Locally, New Research Suggests

Dark matter, the mysterious nonluminous material thought to represent close to 85% of the universe’s matter, may interact with gravity in a non-local way, according to newly published research.

In physics, the locality principle holds that an object’s surrounding environment is what directly influences it, and that a far-distant object could not exert a similar influence. However, within the last century, the field of quantum mechanics has continually challenged this idea, revealing a universe in which non-local phenomena, although perplexing, represent a fundamental component of how nature operates.

According to new research out of the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA), co-authors Francesco Benetti, Giovanni Gandolfi, and their doctoral supervisor Andrea Lapi, believe their new findings could offer insights into how the most mysterious matter hypothesized to exist in our universe may interact with gravity.

“In recent decades, the scientific community has made great efforts to understand these enigmatic phenomena, but many questions remain unanswered,” the authors say in a press release announcing their findings.

“To explore the nature of dark matter and its interaction with gravity, a new approach may be necessary.”

In their study, published recently in The Astrophysical Journal, the researchers present a new model in which they argue that matter in the universe behaves in a way they compare to giving instructions to dark matter within galaxies on how to move.

In order to model their idea, the team relied on a mathematical tool that had not yet been tested in astrophysics.

“We wondered if fractional calculus could be the key to understanding the mysterious nature of dark matter and its interaction with gravity,” the researchers report.

“[S]urprisingly, experimental results on thousands of galaxies of different types have shown that the new model more accurately describes the motion of stars compared to the standard theory of gravity.”

According to the team, non-locality seems to represent a collective behavior of the particles of dark matter within a system, which especially applies in the case of smaller galaxies, findings that could reveal significant new clues not only about the behavior of dark matter but also what it could be.

The team acknowledges that although useful new insights could emerge from their model, many questions remain, ranging from what circumstances could give rise to non-locality, as well as what its implications beyond smaller galaxies could be, and how it might apply to phenomena known to astronomers like gravitational lensing.

“Further studies will be conducted to explore all these implications and more,” the team reports. “We wouldn’t be surprised to discover that other unresolved questions about the Universe could be resolved by the newly proposed non-locality.”

The team’s paper, “Dark Matter in Fractional Gravity. I. Astrophysical Tests on Galactic Scales,” appeared in The Astrophysical Journal.

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at micah@thedebrief.org. Follow his work at micahhanks.com and on Twitter: @MicahHanks