Great mysteries: Dark matter, dark energy, and gravity

This Sunday’s (3/11/07) NY Times Magazine has a really interesting piece titled “Out There.” It’s a sort of a recap of the current state-of-the-state of cosmologic research. You may remember I recently posted my wild hypothesis that perhaps dark matter is really what we call “consciousness,” or “the soul,” or one of those other terms that we give to things that are demonstrable but impossible (at least at this point) to understand.

I’m going to attempt to provide a synopsis of some of the key points of the article. But it’s only fair to provide the standard warning label:


Here are some of the current beliefs. Since I think it’s impossible to “know” any of this (and I think the number of reversals over the history of natural science bears my thinking out), I am going to lump “facts” and theories together.

Only about 4% of the mass of the known universe is the type of matter we are made of, our planets and stars are made of, and with which we are familiar.

About 22% of the total mass is something currently called “dark matter.”

The remaining 74% is classified as “dark energy.” This isn’t necessarily energy as we think about it but an “energy-like” substance, whatever that means.

The term “dark” in this usage has nothing to do with color or brightness. It refers to the fact that these substances, whatever they are, are nonbaryonic. They do not interact with electricity or magnetism (as far as we can tell), or with photons or electrons, and thus we are unable to “see” them. But they make up 96% of the known universe.

To paraphrase one scientist, we and all of things we know anything about are merely a bit of pollution in the universe. Most of the universe is not only something about which we know nothing but something that we can’t even be sure we know how to know anything about. Time for a cold drink yet?

Then there’s gravity. Gravity is a commonly accepted phenomenon. If you let go of that cold drink, it will fall “down” and spill. But nobody really knows why. What gravity really is remains a huge mystery, despite the fact that it has been an acknowledged phenomenon for several centuries.

The theory of gravity says that the elements of the universe should be drawing closer together based on the attraction of one mass for another. But in fact, just the opposite is happening. Enter dark energy.

Dark energy is a sort of anti-gravity force that pushes things apart. In fact, the universe appears to be expanding, which would indicate that dark energy is stronger than gravity. But no one really understands what either force is.

The universe is made up of many, many galaxies. These galaxies are spinning at a very high rate of speed which should cause the stars and their ancillary satellites to fly off farther from the core based on another principle of physics, the principle of centrifugal force.

ย But that’s not happening either. Current speculation says that galaxies hold together because of dark matter. Science has detected “clouds” of dark matter around various galaxies. But once again, no one knows what dark matter is.

Einstein is best known for his “theory of general relativity.” But let’s not forget that he spent the last 30 years of his life attempting to reconcile his theory with the emerging field of quantum theory, without success. Maybe we’re just not meant to know these things. And maybe it’s best that way. It leaves room for poetry alongside science.

I love cosmology, and I struggle with my limited little brain to understand as much as I can. But I think I still prefer poetry.

Now my head hurts from all of this thinking, and I’m going to head off to bed.


19 Responses to “Great mysteries: Dark matter, dark energy, and gravity”

  1. ombudsben Says:

    Had I waited to read this until tonight I could say you were responsible for my drinking a gallon of beer. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Amelia White Says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. wildiris Says:

    Thanks for that mind-bending post. I’m not very scientific, but I like to speculate about such things.

    I’m growing to love the Hindu system of belief about cosmology, in that they have several versions of creation myth, so I suppose one can take one’s pick, which I like better than a dogmatic approach. At least one of them appears to substitute Love for “dark energy” based on my reading of it:

    “There was no wind or breath. God alone breathed by his own energy. Other than God there was nothing. In the beginning darkness was swathed in darkness. All was liquid and formless. God was clothed in emptiness.

    Then fire arose within God; and in the fire arose love. This was the seed of the soul. Sages have found this seed within their hearts; they have discovered that it is the bond between existence and non-existence.”

    (from the Rig Veda —

    A rather poetic view of cosmology. But as even the sages admit, who knows?

  4. mklekacz Says:

    Ombudsben, I hate to think that it was only time of day that kept you from your gallon. It’s always happy hour somewhere in the world. . .

    Amelia, you’re welcome. Thanks for listening to my ramblings.

    Wildiris, I spoke today with my tax guy with whom I share an interest in the strange and wonderful. We had a great visit in between filling out the paperwork. Then I find this in your comment:\\

    “Sages have found this seed within their hearts; they have discovered that it is the bond between existence and non-existence.โ€ That’s exactly what we were talking about. Thanks.

  5. Lynda West Says:

    Great blog, good job getting it all together ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. whig Says:

    Consider the pressure force caused by infalling dark matter/energy. We are within an event horizon.

  7. whig Says:

    At least that’s what I theorize.

  8. mklekacz Says:

    Interesting theory, Whig.

    One of the things that’s happening to me as I learn more and more is that I care less and less about the real answer. It’s like living in a Tom Robbins or Kurt Vonnegut novel, and pretty quick I’m just going to rool over, shout “Whee-oooooh,” and cart Jesus off to Heaven in a hot air balloon.

  9. whig Says:

    Oh, you want the real answer? In how many dimensions?

  10. whig Says:

    Sorry, I should have included a smiley. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. whig Says:

    The truth is we don’t have to measure by spacial relationships as our primary axes, we could use other metrics that would work just as well, if some perhaps with less simplicity, others perhaps with more. Everything is connected to everything, some things are bound more tightly, some things are repulsive to one another, but they interact in either case.

  12. mklekacz Says:

    Whig, the same things might be said about personal relationships. . .;^}

  13. whig Says:

    Yes, precisely so. Degrees of connectedness is very important to understanding how the universe works.

  14. whig Says:

    And if you understand that, you understand something about the mind of God.

  15. wildiris Says:

    “One of the things thatโ€™s happening to me as I learn more and more is that I care less and less about the real answer.”

    This is also true for me, more as time goes on. I’ve finally reached a point where I’m satisfied to have a little mystery left in everything, instead of requiring definite answers. I still ask a lot of questions, but find the questions and the possibilities as satisfying as the answers, maybe more so.

  16. mklekacz Says:

    Whig, there are times when I just hope God has a mind, or a purpose, or something. But I do know it’s all connected.

    Wildiris, amen. I love the questions and the speculation. And it’s all connected, even when we can’t quite understand it.

  17. salon » Great mysteries: Dark matter, dark energy, and gravity Says:

    […] post by mklekacz […]

  18. sri Says:

    Is this blog still active? I would like to share/hear more on this subject particularly from the Hindu point of view.

  19. Dov Henis Says:

    The Basic Implications Of E=Total[m(1 + D)]

    a recapitulation

    A. Its essential statement

    “Extrapolation of the expansion of the universe backwards in time to the early hot dense “Big Bang” phase, using general relativity, yields an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past. At age 10^-35 seconds the Universe begins with a cataclysm that generates space and time, as well as all the matter and energy the Universe will ever hold.”

    E = Energy content of the universe
    m = mass content of the universe
    D = distance, Total = in all spatial directions, from the point of Big-Bang, of singularity’s energy-mass superposition

    At D=0, E was = m and both E and m were, together, all the energy and matter the Universe will ever hold. Since the onset of the cataclysm, E remains constant and m diminishes as D increases.
    The increase of D is the initial inflation, followed by the ongoing expansion, of what became the galactic clusters.

    At 10^-35 seconds, D was already a fraction of a second above zero. This is when gravity starts. This is what started gravity. At this instance starts the energetic space texture, starts the straining of the space texture, and starts the space-texture-memory, gravity, that most probably will eventually overcome expansion and initiate re-impansion back to singularity.

    B. Some of its further essential implications beyond Einstein-Hubble and re classical-quantum physics

    And again and again : “On The Origin Of Origins”

    1. It promotes commonsensical scientific critical thinking beyond Einstein-Hubble.

    The universe is the archetype of quantum within classical physics, which is the fractal oneness of the universe.

    Astronomically there are two physics. A classical Newtonian physics behaviour of and between galactic clusters, and a quantum physics behaviour WITHIN the galactic clusters.

    The onset of big-bang’s inflation, the cataclysmic resolution of the Original Superposition, started gravity, with formation – BY DISPERSION – of galactic clusters that behave as classical Newtonian bodies and continuously reconvert their original pre-inflation masses back to energy, thus fueling the galactic clusters expansion, and with endless quantum-within-classical intertwined evolutions WITHIN the clusters in attempt to delay-resist this reconversion.

    2. There is no call, no need, for any dark energy. The energy of the universe is conserved. The mass of the universe is conserved in the form of energy, the energy fueling the clusters expansion. At the next universal singularity, at the next D = 0, there will again be E = m for a small fraction of a second…just wait and see…

    Following Newton (1) gravity is decreased when mass is decreased and (2) acceleration of a body is given by dividing the force acting upon it by its mass. By plain common sense the combination of those two ‘laws’ may explain the accelerating cosmic expansion of galaxy clusters and the laws that drive it, based on the E/ m/ D relationship suggested above..

    3. There is no call, no need, for a Higgs Particle.

    The resolution of energy-mass superposition is reverted when D = 0. Shockingly sad, but must be soberingly faced rationally.

    C. Its implications re the origin and nature of life beyond Darwin, re selection for survival

    For Nature, Earth’s biosphere is one of the many ways of temporarily constraining an amount of energy within a galaxy within a galactic cluster, for thus avoiding, as long as possible, spending this particularly constrained amount as part of the fuel that maintains the clusters expansion.

    Genes are THE Earth’s organisms and ALL other organisms are their temporary take-offs.

    For Nature genes are genes are genes. None are more or less important than the others. Genes and their take-offs, all Earth organisms, are temporary energy packages and the more of them there are the more enhanced is the biosphere, Earth’s life, Earth’s temporary storage of constrained energy. This is the origin, the archetype, of selected modes of survival.

    The early genes came into being by solar energy and lived a very long period solely on direct solar energy. Metabolic energy, the indirect exploitation of solar energy, evolved at a much later phase in the evolution of Earth’s biosphere.

    Dov Henis
    (Comments from 22nd century)
    Updated Life’s Manifest May 2009

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