About 94 percent of the universe is not detectable matter and the universe is expanding. Those two facts alone are how scientists recognize that gravity as we know it does not work at the very large scale.

It also does not work at the very small. Various bits of speculation, hypothesis, and science-fiction have tried to account for macro effects and they get lumped under generic blanket terms like 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' but experimental physics leads the charge in turning science from fantasy into reality. A new paper has made a step closer to understanding the quantum excitation known as the axial Higgs mode, which unlike the Higgs Boson has a magnetic moment. There is no end to theoretical claims about an axial Higgs mode but reality has been more elusive. 

A new experiment made progress without a $10 billion collider. The researchers used RTe3, rare-earth tritelluride, a well-studied material that can be examined at room temperature in a “tabletop” experimental format. There are challenges in that approach. RTe3 only has properties that mimic the theory that produces the axial Higgs mode, but Higgs particles suffer from weak coupling to experimental probes, such as beams of light. That is why complex experimental setups including enormous magnets and high-powered lasers while cooling samples to extremely cold temperatures are needed.

The authors believe they did it using scattering of light and the choice of a quantum simulator mimicking the desired properties of material for study; a compound long known to possess a “charge density wave”, a state where electrons self-organize with a density that is periodic in space. The fundamental theory of this wave mimics components of the standard model of particle physics, but the charge density wave is distinct in that it emerges far above room temperature and involves modulation of both the charge density and the atomic orbits. This allows for the Higgs Boson associated with this charge density wave to have additional components, namely it could be axial, meaning it contains angular momentum. 

Light scattering, where a laser is shined on the material and can change color as well as polarization, is a proxy because the change in color results from the light creating the Higgs Boson in the material, while the polarization is sensitive to the symmetry components of the particle.

In addition, through proper choice of the incident and outgoing polarization, the particle could be created with different components – such as one absent magnetism, or a component pointing up. Exploiting a fundamental aspect of quantum mechanics, they used the fact that for one configuration, these components cancel. For a different configuration they add.