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Paper: The Search for Dark Matter
Volume: 533, ASP 2021: Sharing Best Practices – AstronomyTeaching and Public Engagement
Page: 24
Authors: Norris, M.; Ronish, C.
Abstract: At the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, SD, commissioning runs are underway for what will soon be the world's most sensitive search for the mysterious particle we call dark matter, using a detector called LUX-Zeppelin (LZ for short). The idea of dark matter sparks the imagination of students of all ages, and the Education and Outreach team at SURF takes full advantage of their curiosity to teach core content in physical and space science, engineering, the science and engineering process and crosscutting concepts of science, such as scale. A sweet spot for dark matter related content is middle school, and at SURF we engage middle school students with interactive presentations, virtual tours and an in-depth curriculum unit featuring forces and interactions (gravity) and indirect evidence. Students figure out how “normal” matter interacts with light (the electromagnetic interaction), how our understanding of gravity led to the first evidence for dark matter and how Einstein's theory of general relativity leads to the most compelling evidence for dark matter to date. They explore candidates for dark matter and how the LZ detector is designed to be sensitive to one particular candidate called a WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle). At Sanford Lab, we are strongly committed to reaching all students with high-quality, engaging, relevant, equitable, and rigorous science learning experiences. The subject of dark matter lends itself to this because all students are starting with a phenomenon that even the scientists are stymied by and it puts everyone on an even playing field.
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