Dark Matter: On What Does It Mind?
Count all our fingers and toes, it amounts (on most of us) to 20 in number. They all serve their function in maintaining grip and balance and are the furthest extremities on our beings that govern motion and feeling, the auspices of interaction with the universe.
Although if we extrapolate the fingers and toes analogy to the universe itself, all that is tangible on our own body of science, is 1 of those 20 digits. The others are there, it's just that we are unable to see or interact with them in any way. It's almost as though such extremities are atrophied and measures to coax them into our sphere of awareness is futile.
This enigma is known as Dark Matter, quietly infusing the universe in tacit subterfuge. Confounding astronomers since it's discovery and exciting us with myriad new possibilities on what constitutes the primordial soup of existence.
The last half a millennia has been somewhat torrid for our processes of understanding the cosmos. Ancient Greek philosophers were postulating theories regarding the heavens many centuries before the Dark Ages of Catholic Europe. Not that their thoughts were not subject to backlash and claims of heresy, as in the case of Anaxagorus who claimed the sun was larger than the Peloponnese.
The Dark Ages were so called for the effective halting of any form of innovation and the dominating prevalence of strident Roman Catholicism over Europe for nigh on a millennium (from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance). The Renaissance was rightly dubbed so, as it ushered in a rebirth of enlightenment, knowledge, art, culture and a blossoming of scientific thought. Copernicus was a pariah for daring to suggest that the universe was ordered heliocentric rather than terrestrially (correct, but inaccurate at the same time). Galileo was forced to live under house arrest for the duration of his life under punishment of The Inquisition. For the unconscionable (I'm being sarcastic) infraction of endorsing the Copernican Theory.
But, once the edifying rays of scientific knowledge flooded minds, first Johannes Kepler, with his groundbreaking theories on planetary orbit... then to Isaac Newton, whose 3 Laws of Motion and his realisation of the existence of gravity cemented real tenets for the study of the cosmos itself.
The 20th century expounded on the discoveries of Faraday and Clark-Maxwell and Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity altered the universe and was by and large compatible with Newton's Laws. Yet, from 1927 onwards, the Copenhagen Interpretation forced a strange hand on the physics card table. Quantum Physics revealed a world that comprises us, from the tiniest spark to the greatest constructs imaginable - a speck of dust has similar parts as The Great Sloan Wall. But subsequent data regarding the heavens is stumped, and increasingly elegant understandings of our existence turned up a little mystery... that more than 90% of it was missing!
Black Silk Blanket Covering Everything.
Dark Matter first gave us the shadowy cast of it's presence when it was postulated by Jan Oort in 1932. This was to account for orbital velocities of stars in the Milky Way. Fritz Zwicky, a year later, waded in also, when it aided him to evince unaccounted for mass in orbital velocities of galaxies and galaxy clusters. Subsequent models and observations indicated it's presence, Vera Rubin's galaxy speed rotation gave cosmologists a good sign that it lurked in the shadows of the universe... the "God" in the gaps was certainly shy!
Through perturbations in the Cosmic Microwave Background (the Big Bang afterglow permeating the entire night sky), cosmologists are eagerly pursuing this new frontier of physics like a cartoon dog with it's tongue lolling out from the side of it's mouth! Dark Matter and it's elusive partner in crime, Dark Energy, which seems to drive the hastening expansion of space-time, thus defying gravity's hold that would otherwise threaten to reign the cosmos in again, have sprung up a plethora of theories in minds of cosmologists. From perhaps not understanding gravity fully and postulating new theories for it's all-pervading tug, to the most popular idea, that there is an as of yet denser, heavier set of sub-atomic particles that yet goes undetected.
Here is another analogy. Gardening requires good fertile soil for plants to grow in. The right atmospheric conditions is required to assist said plant in growing up to it's full potential (water, air etc.) blend these requirements successfully and, presto! You have a verdant flora reaching to the sun and dripping with exquisite flowers like natural jewels. Extrapolate this theory to the universe...
What if matter needed a fertilizer? Our current understanding is that matter consists of around 4.9% matter (you, me and VY Canis Majoris) 26.8% Dark Matter and 68.3% Dark Energy. So everything we know and can possibly (currently) see means that still 95.1% of the universe remains unknown. What if one quarter is peat? and nearly two thirds are the ambient atmosphere?
Our current theory is that everything in existence sped out from a highly condensed point, 13.8 billion years ago and has been swelling out ever since. Perhaps Dark Matter is that compost and Dark Energy the environment? Perhaps galaxies are the vibrant flowers on the branches of space-time?
One of the major questions in relation to an expanding universe hypothesis, is the question, what is it expanding into? General Relativity argues that space-time can curve sufficiently in order to allow the fact that the universe doesn't have to expand into anything. But an assumption that Dark Matter acts as a scaffold, evidenced for Dark Matter halos have been glimpsed around galaxies, especially our own. There seems to be evidence for it suffusing the universe. Another issue the overabundance of matter and lack of antimatter in the universe, there should be equal proportions of both. Is Dark Matter and Dark Energy responsible for this? Did our Singularity expand in an area of hyper-reality particularly conducive to matter, life and us? Is the Anthropic Principle merely a principle of where one is deposited?
© Brad James, 2014.