The Dark Side of the Universe
By Jack Wellman
When other boys were reading comic books I would find myself reading Encyclopedias! Then looking up those things in the Dictionary. No few times would you find me in a closet, after bed time, flashlight in hand…just reading. Absorbing….sponging…pondering. But there was no mention of it in my old Encyclopedias (yes, honey they had color pictures then!…that came just after the dinosaurs). Yes, I still have some of my old ones…banished to the garage, but…yes, the Man Cave!
When I was doing the article called “Finite or Infinite Universe?,” I was doing some research on Dark Matter. And why does this Matter, matter (sorry)? Well, there are more questions than answers. There are so many mysteries to it.
So I sat down to research Dark Matter. I wanted to know what it is and what it isn’t . The definition of Dark Matter baffles me! But I don’t feel so bad though, since scientists have no firm idea on what dark matter actually is either. They haven’t even agreed on a single definition for the mysterious stuff, because they can only guess as to what it’s made of. So your guess might be as good as theirs. You can see the problem of writing an article about something that doesn’t even have a single definition to it yet! But I’ll try. Here’s what we know:
Dark matter is a source of gravity and reacts with regular matter on large scales, it has no measurable effect on small scales (for instance, within our solar system), there is no picture of it and there’s no known way to detect it directly. But the effects are clearly seen.
Since Dark Mater does effect our solar system as a whole, by being part and parcel of the larger whole of the galaxy it resides in, Dark Matter does have a purpose in the universe. What is it? Does it serve a purpose? In December, 2008, new discoveries were ascertained about it. It’s now detailed in the online version of the journal Science. It challenges the notion that dark matter hangs out in halos around large galaxies. Instead, it has been found within the galaxies, which means it also affects solar systems, like ours.
Is there is a lighter side to this Dark Matter and energy? For example, Dark Matter acts as gravitational glue, holding millions or billions of stars together in galactic globs or disks. Without it, “our own galaxy should have fallen or flew apart by now,” said Frederic Bournaud, an astrophysicist with the French Atomic Energy Commission. “So dark matter — this unseen force — is somewhere keeping it glued together.” Dark Energy is the same thing, except it is unseen and undetected energy that joins with the Dark Matter in acting as a cohesive force in galaxies. It is not Star War’s “dark side” but the truth of it is stranger than fiction…
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