Dark Matter is Real. “Dark Matter” is a Terrible Name for It

By Corey S. Powell | April 1, 2019 1:18 pm
Galaxy NBC 1052-DF2 contains no dark matter, a group of astronomers claim. Counterintuitively, that could help us fiture out what dark matter is. (NASA/ESA/P. van Dokkum)

Dwarf galaxy NGC 1052-DF2 is now one of two galaxies that appear to contain no dark matter, a group of astronomers claim. Counterintuitively, this finding could help reveal what dark matter truly is. (Credit: NASA/ESA/P. van Dokkum)

Astronomers have been grappling with the mystery of dark matter for a long time, and I mean a looong time. The history of dark-matter investigations goes back at least to 1906, when physicist Henri Poincaré’s 1906 speculated about the amount of “matière obscure” in the Milky Way. Or really, it goes to back to 1846 and the first successful detection of dark matter: the discovery of the planet Neptune, whose existence had been inferred by its gravitational pull well before it was actually observed.

Since then, scientists have identified many different dark components in space: collapsed stars, interstellar dust, hot gas, planets, black holes. Unfortunately, none of those can account for the genuinely invisible dark matter that seems to make up 26 percent of the mass of the universe, outweighing all ordinary matter more than five to one. Failure to identify dark matter has gone on so long that some people have started to wonder if the whole concept is amiss. The recent discovery of two galaxies that seem to contain no dark matter at all hasn’t helped. As often happens these days, some wags on Twitter immediately started joking that dark matter sounds like the fictitious “aether” that physicists sought in the 19th century.

But those jokes miss the exciting truth–in fact, they get it exactly backwards. Dark matter is real. It just may be even stranger and more complicated than we thought.

To show you what I mean, I’ll start by addressing the aether jokes. This is a reference to the discarded belief that empty space can’t be truly empty, because light waves and other forms of radiation are able to pass through it. Sound waves are possible because air vibrates. Ocean waves are possible because water ripples. What then, physicists wondered, is “waving” when a light wave passes through a vacuum? One idea, originally advanced by Isaac Newton and widely discussed during the 19th century, was that the vacuum is filled with an invisible substance called aether.

If the aether were real, it should be possible to detect. The Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887 looked for the effects of an aether wind that would blow past the Earth as it moves in its orbit around the Sun. Light should appear to move more quickly when the aether is blowing toward us, and more slowly when blowing away. Michelson and Morley found no such effect.

One proposed explanation for the null result was that the aether wind causes objects to compress. If objects (including all measuring devices) get smaller in exact proportion to the intensity of the aether wind, then the speed of light would always appear the same: When the wind is blowing toward you, your ruler would shrink, and when the wind is blowing away from you it would appear to expand. This idea was called Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction, after the two physicists who came up with the concept.

Wait a second. The speed of light is the same for all observers, objects appear to contract when moving at high velocities…those are some of the basic elements of Einstein’s special theory of relativity! Sure enough, Einstein appropriated some of the concepts and even some of the math from Lorentz and Fitzgerald, but showed that the effects attributed to the aether were actually intrinsic properties of the laws of physics–no aether requried. (Quantum physics, in turn, explained why the aether was unnecessary for the propagation of light, either.)

The Michelson-Morley experiment did not, by itself, lead to special relativity, but it was an important part of figuring out how the universe really works.

Stars scattered from their home galaxy (Abell S1063) tend to settle along the surrounding gravitational contours. Vastly amplifying the faint starlight then makes it possible to "see" where the dark matter is. (Credit: NASA/ESA/M. Montes)

Stars scattered from their home galaxy (Abell S1063) tend to settle along the surrounding gravitational contours. Vastly amplifying the faint starlight then makes it possible to “see” where the dark matter is. (Credit: NASA/ESA/M. Montes)

Be Kind to Your Dark Matter

Now we can take a more enlightened and generous look at the puzzle of dark matter. In the 19th century, the simplistic idea was that space must contain some substance that could transmit waves, because the familiar types of waves all worked that way. In the 20th century, the simplistic idea was that gravity from visible matter is the only long-range force acting on the universe, because that was the only familiar force and the only familiar type of matter. The equivalent of the aether model, then, is a model with no dark matter.

Then in the 1930s, astronomer Jan Oort and physicist Fritz Zwicky deduced additional gravitational effects that seemed to indicate the presence of additional, unseen matter. Oort measured it within our galaxy and called it “nebulous matter”; Zwicky measured it within clusters of distant galaxies and called it “dunkle Materie,” or dark matter. (Gianfranco Bertone and Dan Hooper have published a deeply researched paper on the forgotten history of dark matter, available here.)

The name is not important. What is significant here is that they obtained a result that deviated from the naive assumptions of simple gravity and visible matter only. The discovery of dark matter, then, was the equivalent of the Michelson-Morley experiment. Dark matter is not a cover-up to hide a problem in physics. It is not a new aether. It is the provocative, empirical evidence that our physics is incomplete.

I know just said that the name is not important, but I’m going to take that back. The name is quite important, actually, in the sense that saying “dark matter” creates specific and misleading assumptions about what we are looking for. The word “dark” evokes black, meaning something that absorbs light, but that’s not right. What we are seeking is something that does not interact at all with light. Physicist Lisa Randall therefore prefers the term transparent matter.

Even that is still not right, though, because strictly speaking we are not certain that we are looking for matter at all. What we are really seeking is something invisible that generates an anomalous gravitational pull. I’m under no illusions that I am going to displace “dark matter” as the go-to term, but “hidden gravity” is a far superior description.

The overwhelmingly predominant scientific view right now is that dark matter consists of a fundamental particle or combination of particles. There are a lot of reasons for favoring this explanation. Physicists have detected 18 different types of elementary particles along with a dizzying 200-or-so composites particles, and it’s clear that the current Standard Model of particle physics is not complete.

It is highly likely that there are undiscovered particles out there, and it is entirely reasonable that some of them might not interact with light or other forms of radiation. We already know of one family of particles that behaves as dark matter: the neutrinos. They do not engage with light or with the strong nuclear force, but do contribute a gravitational effect. They just don’t contribute nearly enough to account for the observed evidence.

3D map of dark matter (aka "hidden gravity") was created by measuring the way its gravitational pull bends the light from more distant objects, a technique called weak lensing. (Credit: University of Tokyo/NAOJ)

3D map of dark matter (aka “hidden gravity”) was created by measuring the way its gravitational pull bends the light from more distant objects, a technique called weak lensing. (Credit: University of Tokyo/NAOJ)

The Case for “Hidden Gravity”

And mind you, there is a lot of evidence! We see signs of dark matter all across the universe, at a wide variety of scales. It seems to have shaped the initial reverberations of the Big Bang, influenced the production of primordial deuterium and helium, and seeded the formation of galaxies. It appears to provide the crucial gravitational pull that holds those galaxies together, and that binds larger clusters of galaxies together. We can trace it by the way it bends the light in and around those galaxy clusters.

Studies show that dark matter somewhat follows the distribution of visible matter, but not exactly and not always. Those discrepancies offer clues about its nature. The discovery of first one, now two small galaxies that appear to have no dark matter supports the notion of dark matter as a particle. Here’s why:

If unseen gravity (excuse me, dark matter) were some previously unknown property of physics, we would expect to see it everywhere that normal matter appears. Finding normal matter separated from unseen gravity, and unseen gravity separated from normal matter, suggests that the thing creating that gravity is an entity in itself—a dark particle of some sort.

Still, nobody has been able to find that particle despite decades of searches. Claims of annual flux of dark matter passing through a detector in Italy look dubious. Every other direct-detection dark matter experiment has produced null results. Speculation that gamma rays from the center of the Milky Way were caused by decaying dark-matter particles proved unfounded. The results keep coming: nothing, nothing, more nothing.

Repeated failures to find a dark matter particle has left the door open a crack for other explanations, most notably alternate theories of gravity that are often lumped together under the rubric of MOND (modified Newtonian dynamics). In this view, the “unseen gravity” component is a previously unrecognized feature of gravity itself, which operates slightly differently under extreme cosmological conditions (long distance, very low density) than it does on Earth or around the solar system.

There are even more exotic possibilities. Dark matter might be an entirely new fundamental field, not just an additional component of gravity. It might be a kind of cosmic superfluid. Hell, it might possibly be a manifestation of matter in another universe, which creates an otherworldly gravitational pull that is able to cross higher dimensions.

What matters about dark matter is that the phenomena describing it are real, just as the results from the Michelson-Morley experiment were real. The failure of many brilliant scientists to isolate the cause of the phenomena is a strong indication that the answer, whatever it is, will be truly new—which is to say, surprising—which is to say, revelatory.

To paraphrase a famous fake quote by Carl Sagan: Somewhere out there, something astonishing is waiting to be known.

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  • OWilson

    Then there is it’s alter ego, “Dark Energy”.

    On the one hand it is said to be an attractive force, holding galaxies together, and at the same time, a repulsive force said to acount for the exponential acceleration rate of the expansion of the universe!

    Certainly lots to discover! :)

    • Corey S Powell

      Although there have been some attempts at constructing unified theoretical models of dark energy and dark matter, the standard line in cosmology is that the two things have nothing to do with each other–aside from having the name “dark” foisted off on them by the researchers trying to translate their ideas into popular language.

      • OWilson

        I forgot to thank you for the detailed article above, which shows us where we are, and how we got here, with the Dark stuff! :)

        • Mike Richardson

          Me too! :)

          • OWilson

            Of course! :)

        • Corey S Powell

          My pleasure! Thanks for the kind feedback.

        • # Guest

          Hello:
          It sounds like the more dense a galaxy, the more corrupted the measurements? So dark matter is just a figment of bad measurement. What do you think?
          Joseph

      • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

        Dark matter is real. Dark energy is a myth of the flawed standard model.

    • sparklite

      Ah, no. The acceleration force is dark ENERGY, not dark MATTER. It is no ‘alter ego.’

      • OWilson

        I never mentioned dark Matter! :)

        But Dark Energy does have these two dual properties, attractive and repulsive, ascribed to it!

      • Mike Richardson

        You are quite right. Dark energy repels galaxies and accounts for the apparently accelerating rate of expansion, while dark matter holds galaxies together. Dark energy has no attractive properties ascribed to it, contrary to the first response you received.

        • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

          The “apparently accelerating rate of expansion” of our universe is an incorrect deduction of observational evidence, based the dogmatic idea that the speed of light has always been exactly what it is now. It’s possible that in the distant past, say 1 billion years after the Big Bang, light might have moved at a different speed than “c” …

          • Mike Richardson

            Yep. It would seem apparent to us, but during the period of rapid inflation immediately after the Big Bang, the universe itself may have been expanding faster than the current speed of light. But if that speed was different from what it currently is, then the speed limit allowed for more rapid expansion.

    • # Guest

      Hello… just chiming in.

      It sound like density of stars is an issue and the more dense the worse the measurements and hence, the figment of bad measurement, dark matter. What do you think?

  • Barbie

    I wonder if you could not move onto something innovative that you have discovered or accomplished, rather than beating the drum for Rubin, who copied my father’s methodology after referring to his published work, or Randall, “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs,” “who prefers the term transparent matter.” I suggest that unwelcome barnacles get your own show and stop infringing on my father’s work.
    FRITZ ZWICKY – FATHER OF DARK MATTER
    History tells us that prophets are persecuted during their lifetime only to have their prescient theorem realized and acknowledged by the prevailing hierarchy decades or centuries later. The surety
    for the powers of intellectual obfuscation are twofold, literary malefic of the prophet or the assignment of credit posthumously to a masquerader of their time.
    The assignment of forced credit to Vera Rubin as the authentic discoverer of dark matter is not only errantly untrue but lamentable, in light of the hostile established guard advancing this fallacy, that
    was resistant to my father in his time, advancing literary assaults which became as common as grains of sand, but were equally unstable, holding no structure thus becoming dissolute with the tide and time. To
    ascribe credit to Vera Rubin as the discoverer of dark matter pollutes the real contribution of her life’s work, which is equally lamentable to the assigned forced credit displacing Fritz Zwicky. The
    advancement of bringing the gravitational phenomena of dark matter to light and into the modern consciousness of physicists worldwide would have regardless been unsealed from the echoes of my father’s original work in 1933. Fritz Zwicky: “I consequently engaged in the application of certain simple general principles of morphological research, and in particular the method of Directed Intuition that would allow me to
    predict and visualize the existence of as yet unknown cosmic objects and phenomena.” Fritz Zwicky’s eidolon was realized from the results of his observations published in “Die Rotverschiebung von extragalaktischen Nebeln”, Helv. Phys. Acta 6, 110-127 (1933). English
    translation Johannes Nicolai Meyling – Barbarina Exita Zwicky (2013).
    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter and coined, dunkle (kalte) Materie (cold dark matter) in his 1933 article referenced above. The Mass-Radial Acceleration Discrepancy by measuring the speeds
    of galaxies in the Coma Cluster originated with Fritz Zwicky, not Rubin, as using the more challenging methodology of the virial theorem, by relating the total average kinetic energy and the total average potential energy of the galaxies of the Coma Cluster. He advanced that the virial for a pair of orbiting masses is zero, and used the principle of superposition to craft the argument to a system of interacting mass points. Zwicky then used the position and velocity measurements to determine the mass of the galaxy cluster.

  • Darth Malicus

    I find it easy to imagine our universe exists inside another greater universe. and that maby the dark matter, is just an echo of the outside forces on our expanding universe.

    For instance, if this were the case, and our universe is expanding, this shouldnt that mean we must be displacing inside that space?.
    and if we are displacing, then shouldint our universe show a pressure on it that regulates how fast it expands?
    maby that “pressure” is although as a whole, keeps our universe at the properties it does but our universe’s displacement in that space causes whatever we are “in” (whether fluid, gas or solid) to move around it irregularly along our edge as we expand or displace, causing the perturbations we experience in our gravity. how fast the lines of dark matter move (if at all) in our universe might be evidence of our relative size maby?
    I;e if our universe displaces the bigger universe at the size of a particle then we would see everything as it was still. (including the changes of dark matter density)

    maby also the outside of our universe is inside a machine designed to control the rate of our expansion on demand so that the universe lasts longer and produces ever more complex elements untill its ready to harvest a tiny grain of it when its done.
    or maby even the machine is actually harvesting the expansion of our universe itself, like we do using internal combustion engines!
    imagine our universe as a power stroke on a motor. our universe was just one of the many millions of fuel particles injected into the motor. at the right time a spark was introduced and and explosion of millions of universes puts pressue inside the cylinder forcing the piston down.
    in a car engine, the rate of expansion can change if the conditions are poor, can lead to an inefficient burn and let unburnt fuel come out as smoke.
    imagine our universe in all its glory (to us) just being a part of a burn in a motor, and how fast or slow it burns determins whether its efficient or inefficient (blows smoke) and our universe being the type that let matter form, is the type of an efficient burn along with enough other universes that leaves smoke particles….
    Pretty fun to think about if you ask me.
    and I love that dark matter is such a mystery that I and many others get to let our imaginations take over.

  • AbedPeerally

    Very good and witty article. At least the author mixes feelings with science. Yes I like the author ‘s fake remark about Sagan’s fake remark which I also quote in my book which in over 100 pages deals with the topics of dark matter and dark energy. I provide my explanations which are very tough to repudiate.

    • jonathanpulliam

      It is super-interesting. I like the article.

  • mpc755

    Dark matter is a supersolid that fills ’empty’ space, strongly interacts with ordinary matter and is displaced by ordinary matter. What is referred to geometrically as curved spacetime physically exists in nature as the state of displacement of the supersolid dark matter. The state of displacement of the supersolid dark matter is gravity.

    The supersolid dark matter displaced by a galaxy pushes back, causing the stars in the outer arms of the galaxy to orbit the galactic center at the rate in which they do.

    Displaced supersolid dark matter is curved spacetime.

    In the Bullet Cluster collision the dark matter has not separated from the ordinary matter. The collision is analogous to two boats that collide, the boats slow down and their bow waves continue to propagate. The water has not separated from the boats, the bow waves have. In the Bullet Cluster collision the galaxy’s associated dark matter displacement waves have separated from the colliding galaxies, causing the light to lense as it passes through the waves.

    • Corey S Powell

      The challenge here, as with every idea about dark matter, is getting the model to match up with the data. So far, no solution fits exactly, but particle models do by far the best job.

      • mpc755

        ‘Physicists analyze rotational dynamics of galaxies and influence of the photon mass’
        https://www.techexplorist.com/physicists-analyze-rotational-dynamics-galaxies-influence-photon-mass/21340/

        > “the mass of photons, which are particles of light is responsible for the rotational dynamics of galaxies”

        Dark matter is a sea of massive photons which are displaced by ordinary matter. The state of displacement of the sea of massive photons is the quanitization of gravity.

        • 7eggert

          In Wikipedia, the amount of photon mass is already counted as “light matter”.

          • mpc755

            Again, I’m not sure what you mean. A photon is supposed to have a zero rest mass. Say you are a mile down in the middle of an ocean and you want to weigh an individual H2O molecule and the smallest scale you have is a bathroom scale. Now, you might conclude that an individual H2O molecule in the sea of H2O molecules has a zero rest mass.

          • 7eggert

            Completely missed my point, I’ll try again.

            The rest mass isn’t important, also the rest mass of the particles in a photon is tiny. Most “mass” is just energy and the gluon particles jumping into existence.

            We weight the total of all protons and neutrons and electrons to mass of a water molecule, then we add the temperature of the water and subtract the energy from burning hydrogen with oxygen. That’s our weight.

            With light, we calculate m = E/c² and E = h f where h is the Planck constant.

            Light cannot have conventional mass, otherwise each photon would contain more energy than the universe.

          • mpc755

            A photon can have mass if it is moving through and displacing a sea of photons, causing the sea to wave.

    • 7eggert

      Let’s say there is a supersolid filling empty space. In my understanding, the supersolid would have one fixed densitiy or it’s density would depend on the stars embedded therein. Thus it would be uniform and not vary independently from the density of the visible galaxy (except for the wave-like behavior you described).

      If the DM can push back, it has friction? At least the words are inadequate for me to understand them as you’d like me to.

      Curved space time is a more fitting explanation to me, especially if we stop calculating the amount of time a ray of light needed from star xyz to us. Light does not experience time, thus assume no time passed.
      Then the universe will be shaped like a four-dimensional rugby ball (t == long axis) and (a part of) the redshift would be the result of our observation (along the skin of the ball) vs. the “former” size (distance from the axis). We assume to see the microwave background at 13.8 billion lightyears distance, it’s radius was 400 000 lightyears* → stretching results in redhift.

      I’d like to verify this model, but I don’t have access to data as in “Galaxy_name, mass, distance, redshift”.

      * if the universe expanded with the speed of light

      • mpc755

        You roll a bowling ball through a supersolid. The bowling ball displaces the supersolid. The supersolid ‘displaces back’ as it fills in where the bowling ball had been. There is no loss of energy in this interaction.

        Q. Is the bowling ball displacing the supersolid or is the supersolid displacing the bowling ball?
        A. Both occur simultaneously with equal force and the bowling ball rolls on forever through the supersolid.

        • 7eggert

          But the supersolid would have mass, and therefore inertia. We’d have an inertia based on the volume of an object?

          • mpc755

            I’m not sure what you mean. Another way to think of it is to think of spacetime as being a supersolid that has mass that is displaced by ordinary matter.

          • 7eggert

            I’m thinking: If the mass flows around the bowling planet, it will be pushed by the front of the planet and push itself on the back.
            If this happens, the amount of push and pull is a function of the volume (better say: front area). Thus a gas bowling planet should have more inertia per weight than a stone bowling planet.

          • mpc755

            The displacement is ocurring at the level of the quarks.

            What is mistaken for virtual particles, with mass, popping into and out of existence out of nothing is the chaotic nature of the supersolid dark matter.

            Watch the following video starting at the 1:52 mark to see a visual representation of the chaotic supersolid dark matter which exists where the quarks do not. Where the quarks exist the supersolid dark matter has been displaced from those locations.

            https://youtu.be/y4D6qY2c0Z8

            It is the chaotic nature of the supersolid dark matter which causes the Casimir effect. In the following video, the vibrating water represents the chaotic dark matter.

            https://youtu.be/Dv8IRx43vy0

          • 7eggert

            What I tried to describe is this: Before there is the bowling ball, there is the supersolid. It gets displaced – where to? – to the back of the bowling ball!
            Now try to stop the bowling ball: The supersolid is still flowing to the back of the ball and pushing it as much as the front is resisting the movement (inertia of the s’solid).
            The amount of push should be a function of the area of the front. We’d see a change of inertia by shaping objects like this or like that.

          • mpc755

            It’s each and every quark the object consists of that displaces the supersolid dark matter.

  • Barbie

    I wonder if you could move onto something innovative that you have discovered or accomplished, rather than beating the drum for Rubin, who copied my father’s methodology after referring to his published work, or Randall, “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs,” and “who prefers the term transparent matter.” I suggest that unwelcome barnacles get your own show and stop infringing on my father’s work and memory.
    History tells us that prophets are persecuted during their lifetime only to have their prescient theorem realized and acknowledged by the prevailing hierarchy decades or centuries later. The surety
    for the powers of intellectual obfuscation are twofold, literary malefic of the prophet or the assignment of credit posthumously to a masquerader of their time.
    The assignment of forced credit to Vera Rubin as the authentic discoverer of dark matter is not only errantly untrue but lamentable, in light of the hostile established guard advancing this fallacy, that
    was resistant to my father in his time, advancing literary assaults which became as common as grains of sand, but were equally unstable, holding no structure thus becoming dissolute with the tide and time. To
    ascribe credit to Vera Rubin as the discoverer of dark matter pollutes the real contribution of her life’s work, which is equally lamentable to the assigned forced credit displacing Fritz Zwicky. The advancement of bringing the gravitational phenomena of dark matter to light and into the modern consciousness of physicists worldwide would have regardless been unsealed from the echoes of my father’s original work in 1933. Fritz Zwicky: “I consequently engaged in the application of certain simple general principles of morphological research, and in particular the method of Directed Intuition that would allow me to predict and visualize the existence of as yet unknown cosmic objects and phenomena.” Fritz Zwicky’s eidolon was realized from the results of his observations published in “Die Rotverschiebung von extragalaktischen Nebeln”, Helv. Phys. Acta 6, 110-127 (1933). English translation Johannes Nicolai Meyling – Barbarina Exita Zwicky (2013). Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter and coined, dunkle (kalte) Materie (cold dark matter) in his 1933 article referenced above. The Mass-Radial Acceleration Discrepancy by measuring the speeds
    of galaxies in the Coma Cluster originated with Fritz Zwicky, not Rubin, as using the more challenging methodology of the virial theorem, by relating the total average kinetic energy and the total average potential energy of the galaxies of the Coma Cluster. He advanced that the virial for a pair of orbiting masses is zero, and used the principle of superposition to craft the argument to a system of interacting mass points. Zwicky then used the position and velocity measurements to determine the mass of the galaxy cluster.

    • OWilson

      Rubin, like Einstein, “stood on the shoulders of giants” to see a little further!

      One of those giants was Zwicky, who stood on the shoulders of Kelvin (1884), Poincaré (1906) Kapteyn (1922) and Oort (1932)

      • jonathanpulliam

        What is precisely analogous to standing on the shoulder of giants is Benedict Donalds turtle-like descent into the eternal well of depravity, no, Mano??

    • Corey S Powell

      Dear Barbarina, As you know I have great respect for your father’s work and legacy. Out of that respect, I’ve edited your response to focus on his contributions rather than the unwarranted attacks on Vera Rubin, whom I don’t even mention in this article! I understand how frustrated you get, but please read before you comment. Not every article about dark matter is the same old story.

      • Barbie

        My first comment disappeared and now my new, incomplete comment edited by you with a distorted allegation “unwarranted attacks on Vera Rubin,”that is unfounded and remains without answer or verification due to your edit. The frustration is not mine but belongs to those who have never risen to greatness and have incessantly and cowardly attacked my father and his work after his passing. The article by Richard Panek is one example of a “hit piece” against me under your tenure. The Editorial Board of the Poughkeepsie Journal corrected Rubin’s false assertion of discovering Dark Matter, Vassar College changed the name of Rubin’s lecture, “I Left Vassar and Found Dark Matter,” and PBS Makers Women removed the Vera Rubin documentary as discovering Dark Matter. There have been no unwarranted attacks on Rubin but on my father that few but honorable editors have corrected.

        • Corey S Powell

          In this article, I clearly identify Fritz Zwicky as the first to deduce extragalactic dark matter, and I do not mention Vera Rubin anywhere. Why are you upset that I am giving your father exactly the credit you are asking for?

          • jonathanpulliam

            Conceptually, Poe’s insights pre-dated these:

            “The first who used Poe’s ideas was the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann (1888-1925), who was a fan of Poe. In 1922 he published the mathematics for a dynamic universe, as an alternative for Einstein’s “cosmological constant.”4 The second one was the Belgian astronomer and priest Georges Lemaître (1894-1966), who suggested the Big Bang in 1927. 5 Poe’s ideas were clearly behind these scientific breakthroughs, but he never received the credits.”

          • Corey S Powell

            You might enjoy this essay about Poe that I commissioned when I was the science editor at Aeon:

            https://aeon.co/essays/edgar-allan-poe-visionary-of-big-bang-cosmology

      • AbedPeerally

        Once Barbie and the rest of the world see my TOE and my hundreds of pages about DM/DE you will see that historical figures like Zwicky and Vera Rubin have done their very best to say what they found in their reputable work. However science evolves and makes progress. There is a final explanation as you will gather. You surely do not find it flimsy that more than a century of research about dark matter and without any background historical culture at all about dark energy in 1998 when it was announced, that scientists can be totally convinced today that they do exist.

    • 7eggert

      “by relating the total average kinetic energy and the total average potential energy of the galaxies of the Coma Cluster”

      That’s the bit needed to understand Fritz Zwicky’s work when described in documentaries. Up to now, I only heard explanations without this.

      (Also I’m wondering:
      a) Gravity takes time to propagate. I assume the simulations don’t take that into account, but maybe it would make a difference?
      b) What if there is something for gravity like a dielectric material for electric energy?)

  • JWrenn

    I vote ridiculously large birds of prey…cloaked of course.

    • Corey S Powell

      Maybe the Romulans figured out how to toggle between regular matter and dark matter. Just throwing out the idea for any fan fiction writers…

      • 7eggert

        That’s what the artificial quantum singularity does! :-)

      • JWrenn

        Well they are powered by black holes so maybe they are just super massive and they never mentioned it in the show.

      • jonathanpulliam

        The Romulans call it “Awkward Annihilation”. No energy is released but a “fold” occurs in the 3rd brane

        • Jesse Jackson’s Love Child

          Jesus christ, a fat, virgin Trekkie. Color me unsurprised. Loser.

  • Benjamin J

    A person builds a machine that will solve humans most pressing problems. It took years and years to build it. After finishing it, the on switch was pressed but nothing happened, the machine is dead.

    The best and the brightest came to help to figure out the problem of what could cause the machine to not turn on. Papers with the most elaborate math written and theories were submitted there was even a theory that perhaps such a complicated machine produces a dark force that repels electricity and that is why we can not get the machine to work.

    One day the janitor walks in and asks, did you guys plug in the machine?.

    The standard model has so many unworkable components and each unworkable problem gets its own unproven unfalsifiable theory of a solution. From shrinking matter to mythical dark (forces) energy and matter. Achems razor be dammed.

    One day a janitor (a scintist ) asks doesn’t all the problems get solved by one simple scientifically valid theory of Machs principle,
    Newton’s alternative view as shown mathematically by Luka Popov,
    And Tycho Brahe movements of the planets?

    Earth at the center of a universe that rotates around earth
    Is the Achems razor for the
    1) redshift in galaxies (velocity)
    2) the observation of the extra spin in galaxies due to the observer thinking he is not standing still thus making it look like they are spinning to fast when in fact if the universe spin is taken into account the galaxy spin do align whit newton’s Principia, no dark matter is needed
    3) and it solves the latest unworkable problem that scientist haven’t yet had time to solve with an unprovable and an unfalsifiable solution.
    called,

    Axis of evil in cosmology.

    The question is, did the best and the brightest explode in laughter at the janitor?
    And continued living in denial?.
    Or were they humble enough to admit the janitor is right.

    Will see how the story ends.

    • 7eggert

      “The best and the brightest came to help to figure out the problem of what could cause the machine to not turn on.”

      I expected:
      “… The machine itself was the biggest problem. It disabled itself.”

    • jonathanpulliam

      O.K. It’s been 8 days since you posted this, now post the other half, yo

      • Benjamin J

        The other half is you and me.
        Meaning, will we the human race follow the evidence wherever it leads us, or will we ignore certain evidence that we don’t want to be true?

        So again, the other half of the story is not written yet, you me/us are writing it now.

        Will we look for a solution for why galaxies are not flying apart
        only in the direction that will confirm the standard modal or will we look for solutions wherever the solutions will lead us?

        So the other half is an open story/question. Will we see the glaringly obvious that the machine is just not plugged in and that is the reason the machine is not working?/ We took earth out of its center and this amazing machine called universe is not working and we can only make it work if we add dark forces/dark matter dark and energy to make it work.

        Or, we plug the machine in / we put the earth at the center of the rotating universe and watch how this amazing machine called universe works perfectly?

        • jonathanpulliam

          Our culture. which I view as a “branding/fan-boy” – based culture, must contain the seeds of its own doom. The corruption of the human gene pool alone is worrisome, but so is the thermonuclear weapons proliferation rate, and our uber-lackadaisical response to suppressing underground our electricity grid in anticipation of what is considered to be somewhat over-due impending period of terrestrial magnetic polarity migration / associated diminution of Earth’s protective magnetosphere

          • Benjamin J

            the human race is Inherently good. We just needed to own our goodness.

            That is why we created this universe (Quantum mechanics.
            observer/ Consciousness before matter ) so we can become and own our good, not just be good instinctively.

  • 7eggert

    “dark” is an other word for “hidden”, thus it’s OK to call it dark. Not because it’s more accurate but to make people ask and wonder about it.

    • OWilson

      From “The God Particle” (Lederman) paraphrased!

      Imagine aliens studying Earth, who had a problem conceptualizing a small sphere, watching a soccer game.

      They see humans running up and down the field, this way and that, for no apparent reason, deighting a huge audience.

      Then finally one smart alien postulates “a ball”.

      Suddenly it all makes sense! :)

    • Corey S Powell

      Calling it “dark matter” certainly is catchy, and has helped communicate the concept to the public. My issue is that the term is also doubly misleading: We don’t know for sure that we are looking for matter, and whatever it is, it certainly is not “dark” in the same sense as ordinary dark things in space (planets, brown dwarfs, black holes, dust, cold gas).

      • jonathanpulliam

        You are very wise to wish to somehow “brand” dark matter with a catchy, if not particularly euphonious, appellation to make it more palatable to John Q. Public. I find the word “relentless” tests well in those focus groups. Run this up the flagpole & see hif anyone salutes it:

        “Relentless Dark Matter”

        Hif it ain’t baroque, feign Brexit

  • http://www.metric.org BeholdersEye

    Dark matter/energy doesn’t exist, it is only a theory until proven fact, people have under or over guesstimated the total mass of the universe, we don’t completely understand gravity and how it works…
    Such as the collective gravitational forces of a galaxy…

    • Nate

      “we don’t completely understand…the collective gravitational forces of a galaxy”

      I’d say you entirely missed the point of this article: that there IS some unknown matter/particle/force/field or incomplete understanding of gravity, no matter what you call it, the discrepancy between theory and observation, the part we don’t completely understand, is LITERALLY dark matter.

      Also, many things throughout history have existed without being proven.

      • Corey S Powell

        Well said!

        • # Guest

          Corey:
          Thanks for your clear comments.
          A stray question: do scientists have investigators to make sure scientific media is not infiltrated by manipulators of scientists?

          • # Guest

            I’m thinking of subliminals and design element commonality between scientific diagrams and media and the intruder’s media that may have undue influence on scientists and lead them to be more susceptible to suggestion from the cross-designers.

      • jonathanpulliam

        By the wooed wabbitt snark’d a Fudd
        White light-emitting fiew’d un-swirled
        Here the tweacherous twickster stood
        The silliest Force in all the world

  • cassondra

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  • Occasional-Cortex

    We don’t know what 96% of the universe is made of, and haven’t even figured out a unified theory to explain the 4% we can detect.

    We’re still living in the Stone Age.

    • Corey S Powell

      Except with rockets and smart phones…

    • jonathanpulliam

      The average human being has one breast & one testicle.

  • Fred Scuttle

    Dark Matter Matters!

    • jonathanpulliam

      “Dim Don’s Newly Minted Space Force Plans Nubbin-Probe of Uranus” There’s yer dang headline, Skipper

      • Corey S Powell

        Now now! This is a science place.

  • UGApaul

    So would there be light bending if the photons were traveling exactly in the middle of two super massive bodies close in proximity?

    I’ve always assumed the answer to this question also accounted for most, if not all of the effects of “dark matter.” It also accounts for the fairly homogenous distribution of matter in the universe.

  • Mark Palmer

    Can a charged capacitor be distinguished from an uncharged one from a cosmological distance with no telemetry available? Point being that energy is equivalent to matter, E=MC^2, and so has some gravitational equivalency to mass that at cosmological distances has yet to be resolved. Cool plasma of charged particles would be more gravitational expressive than the uncharged neutral particles. Just guessing.

  • Patrani ll

    All experiments looking for dark matter have same zero results. It means there is no dark matter..
    We only dont understand gravity.

    • 7eggert

      There is no gravity, only curved space.

      • # Guest

        Does curved space expand and contract or curve into what?

    • Corey S Powell

      We don’t have a quantum theory of gravity, so our understanding of gravity is certainly incomplete. Whether a more complete theory will explain dark matter is still an open question. All it will take is one successful dark-matter experiment to validate all of the speculation about dark-matter particles.

      • jonathanpulliam

        “If CNN scoop’d the “graviton”
        Fox wouldn’t even put it on!”

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  • AbedPeerally

    Very good article. It will become part of the intellectual history of the universe really. Carl Sagan was an erudite and his prediction is one of the soundest possible. And will begin soon. Later this year intellectually.

  • David Blette

    The most common matter in the universe is hydrogen. Randall Mills theories state that if you reduce hydrogen’s electron shell to a state below its “ground” state it becomes dark matter. Will we continue ignoring this theoretical possibility until we are all generating energy in our homes from his inventions. Brilliant Light power will force a paradigm shift.

    • 7eggert

      Isn’t the DeBroglie assumption correct saying electron orbits must be a multiple of it’s wavelength?

      Then I assume the next lower orbit would be catching the electron in the nucleus, converting hydrogen to a neutron.

    • Corey S Powell

      Show me experimental evidence that can be reliably repeated by other researchers, and I will happily report on it.

      • Peter Wolstenholme

        can be repeated ?” But who will do that?
        Consider the recently reported gas chromatography results. BLP are willing to supply hydrinos for such tests. They would be delivered bound to some Gallium Oxide, and released by heating that above 900 °C. Tests should follow rapidly as hydrino molecules will easily diffuse through the walls of any container, like Hydrogen but worse.

        • Corey S Powell

          Announced in the form of a Powerpoint, with no explanation of methodology and no examination of possible sources of error? That, along with BLP’s history of making & breaking promises about commercial products, makes it extremely difficult to report credibly on their work.

          • Peter Wolstenholme

            The methodology seems clear enough. Surely any lab competent with gas chromatography should do several careful experiments, and investigate possible sources or error, before reporting on results. But it will probably not happen: why would anyone bother?

    • jonathanpulliam

      I find it is quite effortless to ignore stuff.

  • Joliphant

    Strawmen all the way down

  • Joe Bakhos

    This idea posits a new hypothesis about gravity; it would explain the effects attributed to dark matter and dark energy.
    It would also explain the odd behavior of Oumuamua, the interstellar asteroid that recently passed through our solar system. I paste an abstract here along with a link to my article on this.

    ABSTRACT

    Galactic rotation rates, the distribution of matter in the early universe shown by the scale of anisotropies in the CMB, and cosmological expansion present problems that current theory attempts to resolve by positing dark matter and dark energy. This paper posits that gravitational force is a dampened wave function dependent upon mass and distance. Therefore gravity reverses at regular dampened intervals. This reversal would also be in effect at smaller scales such as our own solar system, implying that current theory may have overlooked evidence of this in the data from various probes that have been launched.

    LINK: https://redd.it/ao8vfo

  • martin smith

    Have the cosmologists taken into account “Nested Gravity Wells”, the fact that most Galaxies exist within Clusters & Supperclusters etc?

    • jonathanpulliam

      I like your “consciousness” comment. You are kind of stingy with your comments, Martin, for someone who has such interesting things to say, I fink.

  • jonathanpulliam

    “…provocative, empirical evidence that our physics is incomplete.”

    “Evidence for the existence of particles called Weyl fermions in two very different solid materials has been found by three independent groups of physicists. First predicted in 1929, Weyl fermions also have unique properties that could make them useful for creating high-speed electronic circuits and quantum computers.”

    –Hamish Johnston writing in 7-23-2015 issue of Physics World.

    Roger that vector, Victor, and don’t call me Shirley.

  • jonathanpulliam

    Kim Jong Un went to the mountain, so’s if y’all see any bright flashes —

    “Duck… and Cover !

  • jonathanpulliam

    Heisenberg by extension whatever actually happened could not have been what you observed.

  • jonathanpulliam

    There used to be a company called “Infoton” that, for fiduciary reasons, had to be re-named “General Terminal Corp.” pursuant to a Chapter something-or-other filing of insolvency, if I remember right.

    I only mention this as I am quite fond of the prospect this term “infoton” being rescued from the vicissitudes of commerce and restored to its rightful place in the pantheon of odd-ball wavicles

  • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

    Great essay, Dr. Powell. First I must strongly object to your simplified treatment of the “aether” controversy. It’s true that Einstein did for a time believe that one doesn’t need ether to explain & understand how our universe works. However, by 1920, at age 40, he had come back around to believing that a universe without ether is (to quote him) “unthinkable” —– because “without ether … there could be no propagation of light.” This is a famously well-known Einstein quote, and I reckon that you are aware of it, but have chosen to ignore it in order to present you theory of dark matter. I’ll read more of your essay, and will probably have more to say re it.

  • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

    9 April 2019 Hi again, Dr. Powell. You say in the essay that, in trying to determine what dark matter is: “What we are really seeking is something invisible that generates an anomalous gravitational pull. … ‘hidden gravity’ is a far superior description.” Agreed that “dark matter” creates a kind of “hidden gravity” — but using that term implies that dark matter is more mysterious than it in fact might actually be. I invite everyone reading this to order from Amazon a copy of a 1997 book, BEFORE THE BIG BANG, by Ernest Sternglass, for a believable answer to the mystery of what dark matter is. Hint: it comes in LARGE CHUNKS, not tiny “particles.” It remains dormant for millions or billions of years, during which it is COLD dark matter. Suddenly it explodes, becoming HOT matter, and no longer dark. After it explodes it is called a quasar, which eventually evolves to produce a star or galaxy.

  • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

    One can easily explain the discovery two small galaxies that appear to have no dark matter, using the model of Ernest Sternglass, whose 1007 book BEFORE THE BIG BANG is avail. for < $10 from Amazon. In this model, a small galaxy might have hundreds of even smaller pieces of dark matter associated with it. These are normally found around the galaxy's edge, but might also be at the center. However, a piece of dark matter which is smaller than a small galaxy is expected to have a lifetime of only about 15,000 years, or less, before it explodes and becomes visible matter. A full reading of Sternglass's book explains this in detail, and reveals much more.

  • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

    “There are even more exotic possibilities. Dark matter might be an entirely new fundamental field, not just an additional component of gravity. It might be a kind of cosmic superfluid. Hell, it might possibly be a manifestation of matter in another universe, which creates an otherworldly gravitational pull that is able to cross higher dimensions.”

    I doubt it.

  • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

    SORRY TO BE SO CRITICAL. I REALLY LOVE THIS BLOG. IT’S VERY “USER FRIENDLY” —– ALLOWING ONE TO EASILY POST AND THEN EDIT ONE’S POSTS !!

  • MARK CREEK-WATER DORAZIO

    “The failure of many brilliant scientists to isolate the cause of the phenomena is a strong indication that the answer, whatever it is, will be truly new—which is to say, surprising—which is to say, revelatory.”

    I totally agree. Since I discovered Sternglass’s book in May 2009 my astrophysics study project has become the dominating passion in my life, with the feeling that I truely know some things which most PhD-holders do not !! With kind regards, Mark Creek-water Dorazio, amateur astrophysics enthusiast, Phoenix, Arizona, USA, 9 April 2019

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Out There

Notes from the far edge of space, astronomy, and physics.

About Corey S. Powell

Corey S. Powell is DISCOVER's Editor at Large and former Editor in Chief. Previously he has sat on the board of editors of Scientific American, taught science journalism at NYU, and been fired from NASA. Corey is the author of "20 Ways the World Could End," one of the first doomsday manuals, and "God in the Equation," an examination of the spiritual impulse in modern cosmology. He lives in Brooklyn, under nearly starless skies.

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