Not really understanding but knowing it’s important!
I recently read a glowing review of the latest book by Sir Roger Penrose, the eminent mathematical physicist, called The Road To Reality. Having previously read his book The Emperors’ New Mind and just understanding it, I thought
his next one would be a welcome companion for long winter evenings. Wrong!
I managed to the bottom of the third page of the preface before “According to the mathematician’s “equivalence class” notion …..” had me grasping for meaning. Well over a 1,000 pages of content was destined to gather dust on the bookshelf.
But wrong again!
The idea of matter out there in the universe that is essential to the universe as we know it but is unseen has been sufficiently fascinating for the popular media to refer to it from time to time. Most people are familiar with the term even if like me don’t really have a clue as to what dark matter is all about.
So a recent press release in a popular English newspaper suggesting that dark matter has been ‘discovered’, if discover is the appropriate term, had me reaching out for Penrose’s book again. There under the chapter headed Speculative theories of the early universe was, on page 773, a few sentences that almost made sense. Let me quote them:
For many years, it had become clear that the dynamics of stars within galaxies does not make sense, according to standard theory unless there is a good deal of more material in the neighbourhood of the galaxy than is directly seen in stars. A similar comment applies to the dynamics of individual galaxies within clusters. Overall, there seems to be about 10 times more matter than is perceived in ordinary baryonic form. This is the mysterious dark matter whose actual nature is still not agreed upon by astronomers, and which may even be of some material different from any that is definitely known to particle physicists – though there is much speculation about this at the present time.
So the article in the British Guardian newspaper was worth reading and, subsequently, sharing with you on this Blog. Here’s are the opening paragraphs of that article:
For 80 years, it has eluded the finest minds in science. But tonight it appeared that the hunt may be over for dark matter, the mysterious and invisible substance that accounts for three-quarters of the matter in the universe.
In a series of coordinated announcements at several US laboratories, researchers said they believed they had captured dark matter in a defunct iron ore mine half a mile underground. The claim, if confirmed next year, will rank as one the most spectacular discoveries in physics in the past century.
Tantalising glimpses of dark matter particles were picked up by highly sensitive detectors at the bottom of the Soudan mine in Minnesota, the scientists said.
Hence the first line of this Post “Not really understanding but knowing it’s important!” If this find is confirmed then, without me knowing the reasons why I say this, it may well serve as one of the huge discoveries of mankind. Others who know better are encouraged to comment.
Finally, I was amused when searching for an image to add to this Post, bearing in mind that dark matter is unseen, to find a Google Images search on dark matter produced 23,000,000 results. Surprised the astronomers didn’t do a Google search ages ago – would have saved a lot of bother! Oh, nice introduction to Dark Matter on NASA’s web site.