Stockholm university

Research project Discovering Dark Matter: Extending Philosophy of Experiment to Dark Matter

The existence of dark matter is well-supported: there is a wide range of empirical evidence for a novel type of matter that has important gravitational effects on the evolution of our universe. But beyond the fact that it has gravitational effects, all that is known is that dark matter is unlike anything studied by particle physics so far.

Dark matter

According to a familiar image, science progresses through a comparison of theoretical predictions with empirical observations. But what if the theory is not specific enough to derive predictions and possible observations are scarce? That is what happens in dark matter research. Moreover, observations so far have been limited to dark matter’s effects on remote astrophysical bodies, while any detection in experiments on Earth remains wanting. Nonetheless, many experiments and observations are underway, trying to uncover dark matter’s fundamental structure.

This project aims to explicate the success conditions for these experiments: under what conditions can different experiments claim that they have detected dark matter? In doing so, it will clarify how science can make progress in less than ideal circumstances, and it will show how ‘success’ can be broader than the familiar image of science might suggest. It will also fill a gap in philosophy of physics, which has only recently started to pay attention to dark matter, and it will broaden common ideas from philosophy of science to philosophy of dark matter.

Project members

Project managers

Siska De Baerdemaeker


Department of Philosophy