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High-flying cosmic-ray detector offers hints but no results yet

When Samuel Ting  got up to give his plenary talk at the opening session of the American Physicial Society’s spring meeting here in Atlanta, the vast hotel ballroom was close to standing-room only. Not only is the MIT physicist a Nobel laureate, but he the principal investigator and prime mover of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer: the hugely controversial, US$1.5 billion cosmic ray detector that has been riding on the International Space Station since its launch last May (see  Nature 455, 854-7; 2008). If AMS works as advertised, it could detect positrons from the self-annihilation of the mysterious particles comprising dark matter, thus providing the first solid clue as to what those particle are. It might also see anti-helium nuclei created right after the Big Bang, thus shedding fresh light on why matter is so much more common than anti-matter. 


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