Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Problem with Dark Matter

Theorists and observational astronomers alike have a problem: they can’t find Dark Matter! Einstein and others before and since have postulated that there is something out there that we can’t see. Theoretically, Dark Matter is just that, matter in the universe which is dark because it does not interact with electro-magnetic waves. Also, by definition, it interacts with gravity and constitutes more than 80% of the mass of the universe.

One might readily ask, how do we know that Dark Matter is out there? When mathematicians, theorists, and astronomers do the math, and here I am referring to massive calculations that start with principles and assumptions and end with a reasonable proof of how the universe might function, they find that there is not enough mass in the universe to account for the ways in which gravity is affected. Therefore, they introduce a material, an “X,” that must exist but cannot be seen to account for this. We call this “X,” Dark Matter.

True, it is not a very satisfying way to arrive at the existence of something. Many experiments have been done, or are in progress, to see if Dark Matter can be physically proven to exist. So far, every one of these experiments has been negative or inconclusive.

One answer, that is slowly being accepted by more and more of the research community, is that perhaps Dark Matter does not exist and we should simply stop looking for the material. The problem with this is that one must find some other way to account for “X.” If Dark Matter does not exist, how do we explain the gravitational effects on the regular matter of the universe?

It is tempting to invoke a “hand of God” explanation for this. The NIV translation of the Bible says in Psalm 8:3,
“When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,”
It sounds like God is simply holding the moon and stars and other heavenly bodies in their rightful place; but, this is not how we see God at work in the rest of his creation. He does not create black-boxes into which we cannot look or see the mechanism. Yes, God made the DNA molecule that accounts for the information transmission of living things, but he has allowed us to uncover the workings of DNA and even how to manipulate it for our own satisfaction and health. God created the “X” of the universe, but he likely has not put it out of bounds for us to research the “X.”

We await more experiments, more calculations, and more definitive studies to elucidate the nature of “X.” Is it indeed Dark Matter? Is it something else? Many will continue to work on the question, for certainly there is a Nobel prize waiting at the end of the search.

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