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Posts Tagged ‘Dark Matter’

Dark Matter Update

Article in paper today about dark energy, or dark matter – that stuff out in the universe that is a repulsive force driving galaxies apart.

The gist of the news from NASA and other researchers is this:

“We still don’t know what it is.”

They think dark energy makes up about 74-percent of everything there is in the universe. They just don’t know what it is. Fascinating! I’ve blogged about the mysteries of dark matter – and other deep mysteries of Earth. Glad to hear the top minds in the country are still working on it, even though “We don’t know any more today than we did 10 years ago” says Saul Perlmutter.

I say – put the CSI team on it. They can go out, scoop up some dark matter with a cotton swab, throw it in the DNA-spectral-analysis-blood-spatter-bullet-tracer-super-magic-thingamabob-y and – Voila! – I’m sure they could figure out dark matter in a jiffy.

Until then, Mario Livio (a theorist at the Space Telescope Science Institute) says “We need humility. It’s as if we had no idea what water is, even though water covers three-quarters of the Earth.”

We need humility.

Well, that can apply to all of us, I think.

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So, this is a crazy idea that popped into my head. Bear with me here.

In their September 4, 2006 issue, Time magazine printed an article by Michael D. Lemonick about the Big Bang. (Let There be Light: 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the cosmos went black. Here’s what happened next.)

Very interesting stuff there. It talks about the period of time between 13.7 billion years ago (the Big Bang) up to the first 200 millions years. It has been labeled The Dark Ages of the universe. According to the article, the cosmos went dark half a million years after the Big Bang.

The Dark Ages of the Cosmos were also dark because those huge hydrogen-gas clouds were nearly opaque to visible light and no ordinary telescope would be able to see what happened afterward.

Then, two hundred million years later, baby galaxies began to shine. What happened in between laid the foundations for the modern universe. Somehow, during the Dark Ages the primordial hydrogen and helium produced carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements we know today. How? Who knows. One idea is that the first cluster of hydrogen clouds became too dense and ignited. The nuclear fusion reaction “spiked” the surrounding gas clouds with elements like oxygen and carbon, which had never existed before. Those first big dense hydrogen clouds were at least 25 times as big as our Sun, but also much more short-lived. They lived to be only about a million years, whereas our Sun is about 5 billion years old.

Seems to me, there is a consistency there with many objects living today on Earth. Within a specific species – the bigger you are, the shorter your lifespan. Look at the average age of a St. Bernard (5 to 9) versus a Toy Poodle (15+). I won’t comment too much on humans, but there is a reason why the obesity issue is a concern for doctors.

But I digress. How did light, and the elements that provide life today, come to be in the Universe?

Some say the ultraviolet radiation from hot, newly formed stars reionized the remaining hydrogen. Some think the process may have been powered by black holes spewing out X-rays and ultraviolet light. Or it may have been a combination of hot stars and black holes (quoting from the article here).

And my random brain started to twirl.

I think about how frustrating it must be to researchers to not know about those missing years in between. And how they are searching for those answers. And I wonder how long it will take them. And if they figure it out, what would it mean for astronomy research. And then I think, how much does it matter? Even if answering the question of the Universe’s beginnings helps us to answer questions about how it will end, does that really affect whether or not I get up in the morning and feed myself, kiss my loved ones, and do my work? Science for the sake of science can be a worthwhile pursuit, but does the lack of this one answer affect how *I* interact with the universe, right here and now? Would my actions change when these questions are answered? Probably not.

So, I’m reading this article, thinking what a cool bunch of theories these are, and wondering if they will be solved conclusively in my lifetime. And I read this quote from Avi Loeb, a theoretical astrophysicist at Harvard University. He says “We have a photo album of the universe, but it”s missing pages – as though you had pictures of a child as an infant and then as a teenager with nothing in between.”

And I read that quote, and I thought……..good analogy…….but what does that remind me of??

Well, Jesus Christ, of course.

Much has been made, in books and in movies, about the “lost years” of Jesus. There are narratives about his life up to about age 12. Then, there is a leap in the narrative to about age 30. The Bible pretty much leaves out what happened in between. If you watch Dogma, read The Da Vinci Code, or any of a million other books, you’ll hear people speculate about those missing years. What happened? Where did he go? Did he go to India? Did he join the Essenes? Did that prove he was celibate and never fathered children? Or did he have children, and the missing years is a giant religious conspiracy to hide these actions from the rest of the world?

My first thoughts were this:

It sounds vaguely similar. The Dark Ages of the cosmos are the lost years where lots of things happened but no light came out. The narratives of Jesus’ life includes a blank period where, perhaps, important things happened but there is no written history (that we know of). Then I thought, is that just a coincidence? Or is there a coincidence by design? Or just a coincidence that isn’t even a coincidence because the two objects in question are so fundamentally different. Or are they?

So, I thought, wouldn’t it be bizarre if researchers unraveled the mystery of our Universe’s missing time at the same time that historians were able to piece together the missing years of Jesus’ life? What if both discoveries revealed something that fundamentally change the way we look at these events? And of course, I got around to thinking – What if we’re not really meant to know these things? What if some mysteries are destined to remain mysteries?

And in thinking about it today, I wonder: What does it really matter? Ultimately, how would the unraveling of either mystery change who or what we are today? Now don’t get me wrong, as a curious person, and as a Christian, these mysteries probably hold some important information that it would be good for me to know. But would it change the way I live my life? If I learn that the beginnings of space show that our universe will collapse in 3 billion years, instead of 8 billion years – – – will I sell everything I own and run to Rio to party all day and night? Ummm…….no.

Knowing the details of Jesus’ missing years should not change the message of his life, and death. If I learn that Jesus Christ married, fathered children, and studied Hinduism – – – will it change the fact that I believe in his teachings and feel that humankind can live better if they tried a little harder to emulate them? Ummm…..no. Would it contradict the divinity of his life? If his life on earth was one way for God to experience what it feels like to be a human, wouldn’t that experience be richer for having included a spouse and children? But if so, or if not, how does that change his teachings?


Of course, in the endless pursuit of knowledge, you can’t tell historians and scientists to stop looking merely because of any absence of practicality. They may have nothing more to gain than to claim the spot as Discoverer. But to seek answers to unanswered questions is the true mindset of a scientist, and possibly of a theologian also.

To endlessly ask random questions with no possible good answer seems to be the mindset of me. I don’t expect an answer. I sometimes just like posing the question.

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