Dr. Hagelin and team pursue innovative dark matter research

We commonly understand dark matter to be some mysterious invisible substance spread across space that accounts for most of the matter in the universe, vastly dwarfing all the matter we can see, all the stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies.

But MIU president John Hagelin — a noted quantum physicist who trained at Harvard and has conducted research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and who has published seminal papers — believes that dark matter has potential significance to human life.

Specifically, he thinks dark matter may cluster around the human body, forming a kind of subtle body, and may even play a role in the connection between mind and body. He and a group of physicists and students at MIU have begun researching this hypothesis, with encouraging initial results.

But let’s start this narrative at the beginning.

* * * * *

Fritz Zwicky, peering at galaxies in the distant reaches of space, noticed something that made no sense.

He was working alongside Edwin Hubble at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Los Angeles. In 1929 Hubble had found evidence for the expansion of the universe. Now, a few years later, Zwicky was studying Hubble’s observations of a certain cluster of galaxies. He calculated its speed and saw that it was moving very fast — too fast, based on its visible mass, for the cluster to remain intact. At that speed, it ought to have scattered into space. But it didn’t.

Zwicky, originally from Switzerland, concluded that an as-yet unobserved kind of mass might account for this. Calling this mass dark matter, he published his findings in 1933. Several others before him had postulated the existence of dark matter, but he was the first to provide evidence. But the idea of dark matter was slow to take hold in mainstream physics.

The American astronomer Vera Rubin added support to the theory. Investigating spiral galaxies, she found that their rotational speed should cause them to fly apart. But they didn’t. They must be held intact by enormous quantities of dark matter, she concluded, five to ten times as copious as ordinary visible matter. Other scientists would later corroborate her results.

Other directions of research also confirmed the existence of dark matter — measurements of cosmic microwave background radiation (the remnants of the Big Bang), for example, and the variations in how matter was distributed in the early universe that enabled stars and galaxies to form.

So what is the stuff?

Despite this indirect evidence for dark matter, its nature remains elusive; the very concept remains hypothetical. It’s invisible. It doesn’t interact with light. Dark matter particles are constantly shooting straight through the Earth without touching a thing. They’re almost impossible to detect. We can only infer its existence through its gravitational pull on heavenly bodies and apparent influence on the structure, evolution, and dynamics of our galaxy.

Most physicists believe dark matter is composed of not-yet-discovered subatomic particles, specifically weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, and that WIMPS interact with each other through their gravitational influence.

In fact, Dr. Hagelin and his collaborators launched the quest for WIMPS in 1984 with their groundbreaking paper “Supersymmetric Relics from the Big Bang.” This paper showed that supersymmetric theories — the most popular extension of the standard electroweak theory of particle physics — predict the existence of WIMPs. (The Argonne National Laboratory recently sent Dr. Hagelin a letter acknowledging the importance of his 1984 contribution to dark matter research.) 

But gravity, the force through which WIMPS are believed to interact, is very weak. It takes vast quantities of dark matter to exert any influence on a galaxy. And because WIMPs don’t interact with each other except en masse via gravity, they don’t clump together. Instead, they forever whiz past one another in vast, diffuse clouds, with only gravity preventing them from scattering into oblivion. 

(In principle, WIMPS could also interact with each other via the weak force, one of nature’s four fundamental forces, along with the strong force, gravity, and electromagnetism. But because the weak force’s influence is at the subatomic level with unimaginably short range, and because dark matter is distributed so thinly in the universe, any influence from the weak force is insignificant.)

Because WIMPS interact so weakly, they’re almost impossible to detect. Many scientists have conducted experiments to detect and study dark matter particles directly, but without success.

How does Hagelin view dark matter?

Despite his influential 1984 paper, Hagelin has moved on from WIMPS.

With his extensive work in unified field theories based on string theory, he has formulated several new predictions about the nature of matter. One of these is the existence of a “hidden sector” that contains undiscovered particles beyond the normal “visible-sector” particles composing our universe.

Hagelin speculates that some of these hidden particles may turn out to be dark matter or precursors to dark matter. “These hidden sector particles could be all around us,” Hagelin explains, “though they’re difficult to see, and as yet undetected, in part because science hasn’t known how to look for them.” 

String theory, though controversial, remains the leading contender for a unified field theory, and it has enjoyed some notable success, including predicting the graviton.

In predicting the existence of dark matter, string theory provides a theoretical framework for it. Yet it goes further. String theory predicts that dark matter is not electrically neutral, as most physicists believe. It says that hidden sector particles possess a tiny electric charge. Hagelin calls them mcDM particles, or micro-charged dark matter particles.

This charge is exceedingly small, from a millionth to a billionth the charge of an electron — easy to miss. Yet this changes the picture immensely. The tiny electric charge would make hidden sector particles hugely more interactive than if only gravity and the weak force were at work. They would interact with themselves electromagnetically. Unlike WIMPs, they would have the ability to clump together.

Is there any evidence for this?

Recent break­through observations of dark matter distribution in large galaxy clusters have found that dark matter does appear to cluster on smaller scales, much more than would be expected through gravity alone. (See Photo 4) Dark matter apparently has a greater capacity for self-interaction than WIMP theory allows. A force stronger than gravity must be involved.

Photo 4 – This star-forming region of the Tarantula Nebula acts as a magnifying lens, enabling our view of more distant galaxies. This “gravitational lensing” occurs when a large concentration of mass curves the fabric of space, creating a lensing effect by bending the path of light. Calculations show that the concentration of mass is orders of magnitude more than can be explained by ordinary matter. Moreover, the distribution of the transparent dark matter indicates clumping, which cannot be accounted for by the WIMP hypothesis.
Credit — NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

That force is most likely electromagnetism, suggesting that hidden sector particles do possess an electric charge.

Although mcDM particles are thinly distributed across our galaxy, string theory and this observational evidence both suggest these particles would coalesce more densely around stars and planets like the earth. Dr. Hagelin and team have shown that, over the last 4½ billion years, mcDM particles would have been trapped within the Earth as well as clustered in low-altitude orbit around it.

And why is this significant?

For one thing, this provides an alternative and vastly more interesting dark matter theory than the prevailing WIMP theory. If correct, this could have huge implications for enriching our understanding of life on Earth. 

Electromagnetism, moreover, underlies most of physics, chemistry, and biology — it dominates the world as we know it. If dark matter particles are charged and interact with themselves electromagnetically, they would also interact electromagnetically with ordinary charged matter — including the matter in the earth as well as biological matter, including humans.

If dark matter interacts electrically with ordinary matter, it might be detected with sufficiently sensitive measuring equipment. It should be possible to attract it and capture it with suitable detectors and weigh it using highly sensitive scales. 

This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster Abell 3827. The pale blue blotches and contour lines surrounding the four central galaxies are dark-matter concentrations (as determined by the gravitational lensing of a far-distant galaxy located behind the cluster). The pale blue dark-matter clump at the left is significantly displaced from the position of the galaxy just to the right of it, implying that dark matter can clump to itself. In other words, some unknown form of DM-DM interaction is occurring.  
Credit — ESO/R. Massey

How might hidden sector dark matter interact with the body?

Given such high densities of Hidden Sector dark matter particles surrounding us today, they could readily interact with humans. Just as hidden sector mcDM particles coalesce around stars and planets, they may coalesce around the human body, clinging to us electrostatically like Glad Wrap to your hand and forming a “subtle body.”

“Hidden sector matter is much denser around earth than in outer space,” says David Scharf, professor of physics at MIU. “There’s a great deal of it in the atmosphere. It accumulates around things — rocks, anything — but would especially accumulate around animals, which have a lot of cellular surface area with electrical discontinuities that would attract dark matter.”

Accumulating around humans, dark matter would give the body additional weight, potentially measurable.

A subtle body?

Hagelin explains it in this way:

“Hidden sector mcDM particles only interact electromagnetically very weakly with us due to their small electric charge, but they interact much more readily among themselves,” he says. “These hidden sector particles could, and most likely would, bind together to form more complex hidden sector systems, starting with hidden sector atoms and molecules, leading to more complex structures including (hypothetically) subtle bodies.”

“This opens up rich, multifaceted possibilities for dark matter interaction with ordinary biological matter — including living cells, tissues, organs, and the brain — something that can be tested and explored in properly designed experiments, guided by sound theory.”

Professors Manish Kumar and John Hagelin with a Mettler Toledo AX106H comparator scale located in a specially designed lab constructed on campus, fitted with copper sheeting from floor to ceiling, to create a Faraday cage eliminating electrical interference. 

What have the findings been so far?

The team’s preliminary research in 2021 supported Hagelin’s hypothesis. Early experiments involved measuring changes in weight inside capacitors designed to detect dark matter accumulation.

This pilot study was conducted in 2021. The dramatic weight gain during the TM sessions (orange bar) contrasts sharply with the overall rate of weight accumulation.

Remarkably, they initially found that the rate of weight accumulation was significantly greater when a human subject was nearby — and seemingly higher still if the subject was practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. These results suggest that mcDM particles cluster around a human body in a significant way and that a coherently functioning brain and nervous system may attract dark matter to a greater degree.

Encouraged by these striking results, the team determined to conduct a more rigorous investigation. Last year they purchased a high-precision Mettler Toledo scale capable of measuring weight accumulation to microgram accuracy. Knowing that changes in air pressure, air density, temperature, and humidity could skew such delicate measurements, they constructed an electromagnetically shielded lab that controls for environmental influences.

Would dark matter interact with the mind?

Possibly. Because of its electric charge, dark matter could plausibly participate in not only in physical, chemical, and biological processes but even mental processes.

Hagelin and his team theorize that this “subtle body” would resemble superfluids in its behavior. They believe that the subtle body, though presumably macroscopic (human-sized), can best be understood through the microscopic laws of quantum theory, just as such other “quantum coherent” systems as superfluids are. 

For example, when helium switches suddenly from a liquid to a superfluid at super low temperatures, just a few degrees above absolute zero, it gains remarkable properties, such as flowing without friction or viscosity. Similarly, mcDM particles are cold enough to behave as a superfluid because they are bathed in the sea of galactic dark matter that surrounds us, barely two degrees above absolute zero.

Scharf explains how this could be the case. “Even for mcDM, the interactions with ordinary matter, including biological matter, would be very minute,” he says. “This would allow the mcDM to maintain its cryogenic temperatures even in close proximity to ordinary matter.”

The subtle body’s quantum-coherent (superfluid) behavior defines why it is “subtle” and of potential relevance to the mind. It would serve as a quantum co-processor to our physical brain, allowing our brain to think abstractly, to feel with great subtlety, to transcend, and to perform other functions that our physical brain (essentially a digital neural network) in cannot.

Potentially, we could all have a micro-charged dark matter halo extending around our bodies. These ethereal clouds could support mental functioning, providing a long-sought physical explanation for the mind-body interaction. 

“Most scientists believe that mind and consciousness are merely a byproduct of the brain’s electrical and chemical activity,” Scharf says. “But this is just an assumption — not only has no evidence for this been uncovered beyond the obvious rudimentary correlations, but the supposed dependence of mind on brain leads to conceptual incoherence. This view is slowly giving way to the view that consciousness plays a primary role in nature. Still, the mind and the brain obviously interact, and this may involve some totally new physics. Dark matter, so exceedingly subtle, may play a role in this. It may serve as a quantum co-processor to our physical brain. We’re excited to explore this new possibility.”

Enormous clouds of gas and dust from which stars are born — a stellar nursery.
Credit — NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Webb ERO Production Team

About John Hagelin

After receiving his doctorate in theoretical physics from Harvard University, Dr. Hagelin spent a year conducting pioneering research at CERN and another year at SLAC. He’s responsible for developing a highly successful grand unified field theory based on the superstring — a theory featured in a Discover magazine cover story.

His more than 100 scientific articles and books on fundamental particle physics, electroweak unification, grand unification and cosmology include some of the most widely cited references in the physical sciences. In 1992 he received the Kilby Award, which recognizes scientists who have made “major contributions to society through their applied research in the fields of science and technology.” The award recognized Dr. Hagelin as “a scientist in the tradition of Einstein, Jeans, Bohr, and Eddington.”

In addition, Dr. Hagelin has spent much of the past 30 years leading a scientific investigation into the foundations of human consciousness. Working closely with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the noted Vedic scholar and scientist of consciousness, he explored the relationship between the deepest level of nature’s functioning and the deepest level of human consciousness, discovering qualitative and quantitative parallels between pure consciousness and the unified field of natural law, as described mathematically in quantum physics, concluding that pure consciousness and the unified field are identical.

Funding for this work has been provided by the Emerald Gate Foundation; Milton Roegner, an engineer, investor, and philanthropist who has contributed significantly to the team’s thinking and efforts; and the Wege Foundation, of Grand Rapids Michigan. 

Thank you to Dr. David Scharf for his contribution to this story.

An earlier version of this story was published in the MIU 2023 Annual ReportAdapted for MIU News by Craig Pearson.