The decaying theoretical underpinnings for simple WIMP models, paired with the growing list of empty-handed detection efforts, have led Feng and many others to propose that WIMPs are part of a more complicated picture: a hidden realm of the universe filled with varieties of dark particles interacting with one another through a suite of dark forces, perhaps exchanging dark charges through bursts of dark light. Because they offer theorists many more variables to play with, such “dark sector” models can be reconciled to fit into the ever tighter straitjacket of facts placed on dark matter by new data—but the downside is that this sprawling flexibility makes them very difficult to conclusively test.
“With the dark sector, you’re free to invent almost whatever you want,” says David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. “Now that we have lost the guidance from the WIMP miracle, the space of available models is huge. It’s a playground where we don’t know what the right choices are—we now need more hints from nature about where to go next.”
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