Madras native Buettner researching dark matter
Dr. Douglas Buettner, a 1984 graduate of Madras High School, is among the eight renowned speakers slated to give presentations at the 2nd International Conference on Astrophysics and Particle Physics, in November in San Antonio, Texas. His topic will be new research on an explanation of dark matter.
Currently, Buettner lives in Washington, D.C. performing analytical work for a defense customer in the area.
His past accomplishments include the development of the space dust collecting "aerogel" material while working with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Dr. Peter Tsou. Used aboard the STARDUST spacecraft launched in 1999, aerogel captured the first samples of comet dust and interstellar dust, returning them safely to the Earth for detailed analysis.
Contacted by phone and email recently, Buettner attempted to give an update on his latest research in layman's terms.
He mentioned, "It's important to note that the work I did in our research papers, and the information I'm providing are my own opinions and do not reflect those of my employer or the department of defense."
"As a hobby, I've been working on a theory for dark matter with a good friend of mine, Dr. Peter Morley, who is a very talented theoretical particle physicist. He's had this theory for quite some time about what dark matter actually is."
"We know dark matter, or at least something that is quite extraordinary, exists from astronomical observations. The concept of dark matter was first proposed from an inconsistency in the rotational rates of galaxies discovered by a CalTech astronomer named Fritz Zwicky, while observing a galaxy cluster called 'Coma' in 1933. He also proposed that galaxies could cause light to bend according to the gravitational lensing effect that was predicted by Albert Einstein."
"Dr. Morley's theory is actually very simplistic, which makes it so plausible, as it does not require new theoretical particles," said Buettner.
"For example, the scientists at CERN (a European based group of physicists from 22 countries) have been hoping that the biggest particle collider in the world called the Large Hadron Collider would find evidence of WIMPs, which stands for weakly interacting massive particles, to explain dark matter," he said.
"While the idea that neutrinos could be the primary constituent of dark matter has been tossed around for quite some time, scientists had pretty much ruled them out for reasons that may in fact not be true," he said. (A neutrino is a subatomic particle that makes up matter.)
"Dr. Morley's theory only requires two key things. The first is for neutrinos, which we know exist, to have mass. The 2015 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded for that exact experimental discovery — a fact that was not known for sure back when neutrinos were ruled out. However, we still do not know yet exactly what the mass of the neutrino is," he said.
"The second part of Dr. Morley's theory — and probably his key discovery — was published in our first theoretical paper describing a manner in which neutrinos from the Big Bang could have slowed down enough to cool and condense into what we call condensed neutrino objects, or CNOs," said Buettner.
"Most scientists believe that neutrinos from the big bang were traveling near the speed of light after they 'decoupled' and have only gradually cooled down as the universe has been cooling," he said.
Buettner and Morley published several research papers in "Astroparticle Physics," and the "International Journal of Modern Physics," to promote their theory, but other scientists were still skeptical.
"After we published our first two papers on the theory, I pushed Morley to tie the theory in with dark matter observations. After obtaining data, we found that if we only used astronomical observations of the 'virial' mass and radii of galaxy clusters obtained from a gravitational lensing effect called weak lensing, we in fact could make a prediction on what the mass of the neutrino should be if our theory is correct. The virial mass was first used by Fritz Zwicky to describe and prove the existence of dark matter," said Buettner.
"We then published a fourth key paper, which makes a prediction on what the condensed neutrino objects that the Milky Way Galaxy is in should look like," he said.
Buettner and Morley also pointed out that the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino (or KATRIN) experiment should either confirm or eliminate their theory for dark matter. (KATRIN is a collaboration of 150 scientists and engineers from the U.S. and four European countries, based in Karlsruhle, Germany.)
Buettner estimated it will be about another two years for the KATRIN experiment to be completed.
There are numerous other potential explanations for what constitutes dark matter, but the experimental evidence for a number of them is making them less likely.
"We are excited that people are finally starting to pay attention to our theory," he said of their invitation to speak at the Astrophysics and Particle Physics conference. "We will explain the theory and why we think CNOs are a strong contender to be the dark matter everyone has been looking for," he added.
"Of course, we are eagerly waiting for the KATRIN scientific group to publish their results for the neutrino mass so we will know if CNO theory remains in contention. If our theory is proven correct, it's astonishing to think that we actually spend our lives living in dark matter!" Buettner said.
Buettner studied astrophysics for two years at Boston University before transferring to Oregon State University, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in physics in 1988 and 1991. He later earned a doctorate in astronautical engineering from the University of Southern California.