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Couple aims to unlock mysteries of dark matter at Perimeter Institute Add to ...

Natalia Toro and her husband Philip Schuster spend a lot of time thinking about dark matter.

The two young particle theorists, new recruits at the Perimeter Institute, want to understand the nature of a mysterious substance that makes up much of the universe.

“For 20 years we have known that most of the matter that gravitates out there is not the stuff we are made of,” says Dr. Schuster, who is 30.

There is about four times as much dark matter as ordinary matter in the universe, says Dr. Toro, 27. It doesn’t reflect or interact with light.

“We understand that there should be dark matter from a lot of different kinds of evidence. You can weigh a galaxy by looking at the speed of stars orbiting around it. The weight you get that way doesn’t match the weight you expect from all the matter that you see. That’s clear evidence that there is something else in the galaxies,” she says.

It might be made up of particles, governed by laws we don’t yet understand, says Dr. Schuster. A number of experiments are starting to offer conflicting clues.

He says most particle theorists need to collaborate. “If you don’t, your ideas kind of stagnate. It is very useful to bounce your ideas off people and they take little twists and turns. It is important to talk to people. That’s how progress is made.”

He likes the collaboration spaces in the Waterloo facility’s new addition. “It can feel like being in a glass box,” he says, “but it’s nice that you can see the people on the floors above and below from the collaboration spaces. It makes the institute feel smaller and more personal.”

Dr. Toro loves her office, a private space for thinking and working on her own. But she also likes the way the new facility is designed to bring people together.

“You need both to do science. You need a lot of private thinking time, and you need to sort things out with other people. The building furthers that. There are a lot of bumping-into-each-other-places, chalkboards all over the place.”

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