Just over a month ago, a team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Japan found conclusive evidence that DARK MATTER actually exists. That's BIG news, by the way--even if you don't fully understand DARK MATTER (and I'm not sure I do...).
DARK MATTER is called "dark" because it's undetectable to visible light and can't be found by electromagnetic wavelengths...basically, DARK MATTER is invisible. But what is it? And why is it so important?
DARK MATTER is integral to galactic formation. It's gravitational force helps to "bind" member stars of any galaxy. In essence, DARK MATTER is a template for the expanding universe...and the universe IS expanding. That's where DARK ENERGY comes in.
DARK ENERGY is a very dense form of energy that makes up 74% of space. The gravitational force of DARK MATTER may in fact be a side effect of DARK ENERGY. DARK ENERGY's density is what's causing the expansion of our universe--that kind of density causes something called "negative pressure," basically, DARK ENERGY fills up otherwise empty space, pushing everything that already exists in space outward. The effects of negative pressuree is often referred to as "gravitational repulsion," which may sound counterintuitive given that bodies within a galaxy are attracted to each other, so how is it that this DARK ENERGY is repelling everything outward?
DARK ENERGY does not worry about microcosmic galaxies--that is, in the context of the entire universe, galaxies themselves are microcosmic. DARK ENERGY is an evolutiuonary force that effects the universe on a grand scale. According to recent Cosmic Microwave Background measurements, the universe is made up of 74% DARK ENERGY, 22% DARK MATTER, and only 4% of ALL OTHER MATTER. That's right, you, me, that lamp-post, and oh yeah, our ENTIRE PLANET is part of that measly 4%!!!
We naive humans sit around comtemplating our newly green navels, worrying about whether a tiny strip of land the size of Rhode Island is being fair to its neighbors, pondering the sinking ship of our global economy, and hoping BP will finally be successful in plugging up that UNBELIEVABLE off-shore oil DISASTER (the very WORST human-made pollution of its kind...in history). And while all of the above is relevant to our immediate lives...we sometimes forget those lives are ONLY MADE POSSIBLE because we exist within this incredibly expanding universe. Our tiny galaxy is but one microcosm among many. Yet, few of us have a clear understanding of how our universe, and our galaxy within it, is evolving and why. The theory surrounding both DARK ENERGY and DARK MATTER is in the infant stages of human understanding. We no more understand DARK ENERGY any better than say a dog understands why the humans she lives with continuously come and go. The recent findings on DARK MATTER (which, by the way, is shaped like a flat cigar) are the FIRST pieces of evidence that this otherwise invisible substance even exists!!!
Fritz Zwicky (1898-1974), a Bulgarian-born Swiss astronomer and professor at Cal-Tech, "found" DARK MATTER in 1933. Unfortunately, Zwicky's theory of DARK MATTER had to wait about 40 years before it was taken seriously, thanks to Vera Rubin (b. 1928), an astronomer who studied galactic rotation curves, a phenomenon now known as the galaxy rotation problem. Rubin's observations substantiated Zwicky's theory about DARK MATTER...and to think, Princeton wouldn't let her in because women weren't allowed admittance to the Princeton Graduate Astronomy Program until 1975! Fools...anyway, today, Zwicky's theory is no longer a theory. We know, unequivocally, that DARK MATTER exists, which means DARK ENERGY also exists. But that's about all we KNOW for certain. Scary. Very scary.
My point? We, as the ruling species with our bigger brains and opposable thumbs, really need to STOP placing so much importance on ourselves and focus more on the LARGER issues--and when I say larger--I mean COSMIC. We are poorly prepared to deal with any kind of cosmic shift, and that would seem to be something we'd want to make a priority over EVERYTHING ELSE given that none of us can hate each other, kill each other, judge each other, make war with each other, or kill the other species on the planet, or even the planet itself, unless we KNOW more than we do today about the nature of the universe and our very small place within it. Come to think of it, though, given all the negatives humanity produces toward itself and everything else on the planet, maybe we shouldn't....
But I wouldn't have bothered writing this piece today if I didn't believe humanity capable of recognizing its limits. And that's exactly the reason FOR EVERY PROBLEM we face today. Humans are limited--none better than any other. I've found with the wisdom of age, knowing your limits is a positive step toward maturity.
While we humans are limited, the universe is not. We live within the structure of the universe in a galaxy not so "far, far away" from the problems DARK MATTER and DARK ENERGY pose to our very existence. My hope is that we begin to encourage our future generations to not look at education as a means to an end via the lens of consumer capitalism but via a gravitational lens--though the future seems distant, it's bright--as bright as any quasar!
Until next time, dearest readers...keep reaching for those stars!!!