The Insanely Awesome Hunt for Dark Matter
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September 30, 2009

The Insanely Awesome Hunt for Dark Matter

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“Even if we don’t know what dark matter is, we know how it must act,” said Eduardo Abancens, a physicist at Spain’s University of Zaragoza and designer of a prototype dark matter detector 

Dark matter is the modern fairy dust that makes everything (cosmologically) better.  Upon observing that the universe would need to have several hundred times more mass than we can see to be consistent with modern theories, many scientists apparently thought "Fair enough, there must be several universes worth of invisible magic stuff hiding throughout the entirety of existence".  Rather than the crazy heresy of "Maybe our theories need a little work".
Lots of very smart people have come up with a huge variety of explanations for this absentee material, from ultrarelativistic non-baryonic matter (yes those are real words, even though it sounds like they just smashed together some sciencey sounding stuff), to effects from other universes.  The latter is supported by brane theory, but when you're combining both dark matter and superstring theory you might as well throw in "A wizard did it" to explain all the flaws.

Normally people who constantly look for fictional things are labeled as crazy, and this scientific search may have reached psychosis point with spiral galaxy NGC 4736.  A team from the Polish Academy of Science have observed a spiral galaxy that doesn't need the dark stuff.  This galaxy can be entirely explained in terms of the matter we see and the theories we have, and in a shocking reversal of the whole "Scientific Method" process other researchers are criticizing the find - because the observations don't support the invisible thing they believe in. That's not science, that's religion.

Another suspect for this maybe-missing-matter is the neutralino, and we'll have to ask you to believe us that we're not just making up words at this point.  As a heavy, stable, weakly interacting particle it has all the right properties to hang back and just "be there" in the invisible way dark matter is expected to be, with only the usual slight flaw of being an utterly hypothetical string symmetric construction - but maybe not for long.  NASA's gamma gazing GLAST satellite is surveying a radiation map of the sky for comparison with neutralino predictions, meaning it will be testing for dark matter, string theory and supersymmetry.  No word yet on whether it's fitted with a unicorn detector too.

According to theoretical physicists, only around five percent of what makes up the universe can presently be detected. The existence of dark matter is inferred from the behavior of faraway galaxies, which move in ways that can only be explained by a gravitational pull caused by more mass than can be seen. They estimate dark matter represents around 20 percent of the universe, with the other 75 percent made up of dark energy, a repulsive force that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-quickening pace.

At the heart of the new detector -poetically called a scintillating bolometer- is a crystal so pure it can conduct the energy ostensibly generated when a particle of dark matter strikes the nucleus of one of its atoms.

To prevent interference by cosmic rays, the bolometer is shielded in lead, kept under half a mile of rock and frozen to near-absolute zero, the temperature at which all motion stops. At the edge of absolute zero, it’s possible to measure “a high heat signal" -expected changes of a few millionths of a degree Fahrenheit. Abancens said the device could be operational in five years.

Do you get the feeling that we're entering a 21st Century Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole!

Luke McKinney

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/09/dark-matter-detector/

Comments

At least with the neutralino they are looking for something that a) is not vague and some mathematical correction plugged into explain what they don't know, and b) is actually a predicted particle of string theory and not something developed specifically to "explain" the effects that dark matter is supposed to be causing.
Whether or not "dark matter" or "dark energy" exists, or is more than one thing, or is just a mistake of calculations, who knows. I just hope/wish that maybe scientists will kind take a step back from this thinking that they are "so close" to understanding EVERYTHING. Science constantly surprises us, and yet today's scientists seem to speak in such certainties when discussing untested theories. We send probes to the moon, the closest celestial body to the earth by A LOT, and learn things we did not previously know, yet I hear scientists confidently proclaim that they have "mapped" exoplanets, as if they showed up there today they'd know how to get downtown from the suburbs. There's nothing wrong with admitting "we don't know why". In fact, isn't that what the pursuit of all this science is about? Learning about what we don't know? This is one person's opinion (mine obviously), but the ultimate riddle of the universe will not be solved in our lifetimes, or the lifetimes of our children. It may not ever be completely understood. Perhaps it is just beyond our comprehension. I'm not saying that we stop trying (in fact I very much love reading about the pursuits of science), just that it's POSSIBLE that it's beyond the scope of the human brain.

This kind of reads like an opinion piece against the search for dark matter... As it happens we have observed the presence and placement of cold dark matter through what's called weak lensing of distant background galaxies.

Concerning NGC4736, it may have formed via some event similar to what we're seeing now in the Bullet Cluster, in which non-Dark matter get separated from the Dark Matter that travels with it in a collision.

Well, Luke, opinion piece or not, I think you're right to raise these criticisms.

I mean, 'we don't know what's going on, so we'll invent a monstery thing that you can't see but you know it's definitely right there in the closet...or under the bed... or...behind the wallpaper...' ??

I think we'll find that 'dark matter' and 'dark energy' are manifestations of a reality that most of us simply do not want to countenance just yet. So yeah, it is all beyond the human brain's scope - and ego. (Tch! 'Scientists'....)

As soon as i had read the title i knew it was from Luke McKinney.

Man, I don't want to be mean, but when you're dumbing down the science for the masses, you tend too look dumb yourself.

A bit less subjectivity and superlatives, a bit more science, please.

It is interesting that main stream science is so easily led into believing in unproven concepts like dark energy and dark matter. Whenever we make an observation in our Universe that does not fit our preconceptions we invent a mysterious particle or energy to explain the anomalous phenomenon. The simplest answer to me is that there is most likely something wrong with the observation we have made or our computations are incorrect. I suspect that this is a more likely explanation for these observational anomalies. I therefore am inclined to be in agreement with the author of this article.

This article was a very interesting article your points and logic are well thought out. I have developed a theory that uses logic and philosphy which is based on realism and determinism. Therefore I am in harmony with your ideas. Therefore as an alternative to Quantum Theory there is a new theory that describes and explains the mysteries of physical reality. While not disrespecting the value of Quantum Mechanics as a tool
to explain the role of quanta in our universe. This theory states that there is also a classical explanation for the paradoxes such as EPR and the Wave-Particle Duality. The Theory is called the Theory of Super Relativity and is located at: http://www.superrelativity.org
This theory is a philosophical attempt to reconnect the physical universe to realism and deterministic concepts. It explains the mysterious.

WRONG GRAVITY THEORIES CREATES COSMOLOGICAL GHOSTS.

Cosmological movements goes both ways: Inwards and Outwards = "Gravity" goes BOTH ways as for instants in inwards and outwards turning and swirling Galaxies.

Accepting this basical cosmological rule, there is NO need for having any theories for "anti-matter".

http://www.steady-state-universe.net/

The very concept of "anti" this or that origin from the very onesided "gravity attraction/collapse" theory and of the lack of cyclic and holistic views of the cosmic movements.

The modern cosmlogical understanding - or misunderstanding - could easily be corrected just by studying the Native World Mythological perspective.

http://www.native-science.net/

Some cosmologist are beginning to see things differently:

Clump of Swirling Planetary Material
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media/releases/ssc2009-18/release.shtml

Space Telescopes Find Trigger Happy Star Formation
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media/releases/ssc2009-17/release.shtml

- Both links are telling of alternative ways of swirling star/galaxy formation.

Ivar Nielsen
Natural Philosopher

What the heck are we unwashed minions of reality supposed to believe? And who? Or are we unsophisticated science peons supposed to keep out of the way? Your bickering doesn't exactly invite much appreciation of the value of 'true' scientific inquiry! Maybe I'll try the fundamentalists next. They at least sound as though they're having fun building museums about the three thousand year history of planet Earth!!

A good report on dark matter and dark energy. The concept of neutralino may just be one of the other possibilities that one should look for. For example, it may well be very heavy neutral particles akin to lighter quarks that we already know about. In fact the secrets lie in the primordial matter that got created at the birth of the universe. It was extremely dense and most likely neutral, as the only interaction that universe was born with is gravitational field. The other three fields appeared only subsequently, as per demands of the logic of evolution fixed by nature.Nature fixes Physics and not viceversa.it is nice that the detector being used will sense the tiny heat generated when a dark matter particle happen to interact with visible matter atoms.

I view dark matter in much the same way as scientists have observed background microwaves(3 degrees Kelvin). It is a leftover product of the big bang, it is everywhere, in the sun, in outer space, under your pillow; you get the idea. Basically the way I see it is if there was absolutely nothing in space then how the heck could wavelengths of light reach across the cosmos?(ie. the sun to the earth). There has to be some kind of medium for such things to travel through for us to experience and appreciate the basic fundamentals of life.

I like this part if this blog:"Another suspect for this maybe-missing-matter is the neutralino, and we'll have to ask you to believe us that we're not just making up words at this point. As a heavy, stable, weakly interacting particle it has all the right properties to hang back and just "be there" in the invisible way dark matter is expected to be, with only the usual slight flaw of being an utterly hypothetical string symmetric construction - but maybe not for long. NASA's gamma gazing GLAST satellite is surveying a radiation map of the sky for comparison with neutralino predictions, meaning it will be testing for dark matter, string theory and supersymmetry. No word yet on whether it's fitted with a unicorn detector too." is very good


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