Science Pub RVA: Mining for Dark Matter | Community Idea Stations


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Science Pub RVA: Mining for Dark Matter

Dark matter makes up about 80% of all the mass in the Universe, but what exactly is it? Join Physicist and Science writer Matthew Francis at Science Pub RVA on June 4th to explore how scientists are trying to answer this question. Francis will examine the evidence for dark matter in the Universe from the early days of the cosmos to the structure of galaxies. The talk will take us to an old iron mine a half-mile underground, where the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) works to detect dark matter particles directly.  

Join other curious minds at The Camel, 1621 West Broad Street in Richmond at 6:00 p.m. for eats and drinks followed by an informal talk and discussion at 7:00 p.m.  

Matthew Francis specializes in cosmology, astronomy, and many other subjects in physics, and aims his writing and lectures to a non-specialist audience. He is currently writing a book on cosmology, with the working title “Back Roads, Dark Skies: A Cosmological Journey.” In his talk on Tuesday he will share some of the research he is conducting for his book which combines a physical journey with the metaphorical journey of scientific discovery.  

Francis describes the book 'Back Roads, Dark Skies' as a travelogue, where I drive across the united States (and along the back roads of the title) in search of the labs and observatories where modern cosmology is done.  Quite apart from the stereotype of the lone genius working in isolation to solve the mysteries of the cosmos, much of real science is done in collaboration and requires a lot of technology.  The metaphorical journey is concerned with the interplay between new ways of seeing and new things to see: how new technology has spurred discovery, but also how the drive to understand new phenomena has led to new telescopes and detectors.  Despite the vast scales of galaxies and the tiny scales of particle physics, cosmology is a human-scaled venture.  By visiting observatories and labs, I hope to bring the science and practice of research together for readers, along with my own adventures across the country."

He has visited many facilities across the US including the Soudan Underground Laboratory in northern Minnesota, an old iron mine located 2,341 feet beneath the surface, where an experiment works to detect dark matter particles. Soudan Laboratory is home to the MINOS (Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search) and Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) experiments. Scientists from around the world have been working at Soudan for 25 years trying to answer basic questions about the universe. 

More on Matthew Francis: Francis is a physicist, science writer, public speaker, educator, and frequent wearer of jaunty hats. As director of CosmoAcademy he teaches and organizes classes on astronomy and related topics. He blogs about science, education and culture at Galileo’s Pendulum. And covers the physics and astronomy beat for Ars Technica and Double X Science where he also serves on the editorial staff. Francis’ writing has also appeared at BBC Future, the New Yorker’s “Elements,” Wired Science, the Scientific American Guest Blog, Culture of Science and the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.

Science Pub RVA invites you to join Mr. Francis for a brief, informal science talk delivered in plain language followed by a casual discussion. This is the one year anniversary of Science Pub RVA so there will be additional celebrations. Congratulations!

When? Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 6:00 p.m. for conversation and the speaker takes the floor at 7:00 p.m. 

Where? The Camel at 1621 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA.  

Registration is strongly suggested via Eventbrite.

Science Pub RVA is part of the NOVA Science Cafe's network promoted by the iconic, long-running PBS program NOVA. To learn more about Science Pub RVA go to their Facebook page or send an email to Cynthia J. Gibbs at

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