|This two-clocks-illustration shows the pattern of how two atomic clocks would desynchronize and then resynchronize due to a lump of dark matter sweeping through a Global Positioning System or other atomic clock based network. Photo courtesy of Andrei Derevianko, University of Nevada, Reno.|
Global Positioning System, or GPS for short, devices are typically used for navigation purposes. But this satellite network could also alert us to something else: the presence of dark matter.
Dark matter is thought to form 80% of the universe, but is difficult to detect because it rarely interacts with ordinary matter. Its makeup is unknown, as it has never been viewed by science. Some have suggested that dark matter is a particle; however, a new study indicates that dark matter may consist of kinks in the quantum field.
According to Andrei Derevianko at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Maxim Pospelov at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, dark matter may be made of quantum field cracks that can be detected by GPS. The theory is a revolutionary one, and would change the nature of time and space where the kinds are located.
One of these elements is time, which is tracked by the extremely accurate GPS system. With a network of satellites spanning 50,000 kilometers and traveling through space at 300 kilometers a second, a cosmic kink could disturb the GPS clocks. This quantum crack would require 170 seconds to jump across the networks.
GPS clocks could be interrupted by other factors, but Deverianko and Pospelov believe that only dark matter could disturb the system’s timekeeping in a certain way.
Derevianko is currently pulling data from 15 years of GPS records to search for signs of dark matter’s presence. If no fingerprints are detected, he will use the ground-based atomic clocks belonging to the Network for European Accurate Time and Frequency Transfer.
If dark matter is nothing more than cosmic kinks, it could give some people a new thing to grumble about. “I hear these stories about people getting lost using GPS,” said Derevianko. “Now they could have another excuse: maybe it was dark matter that caused them to lose their way.”