I realise that the things I’m about to propose are hokum – total nonsense. Some would say not worthy of such speculation. But sometimes it’s fun to dream – to imagine; to make wild and unsubstantiated assertions. They’re not intended to harm or upset anyone – and I’d be surprised if any of these do that, so I shall persevere. Because I want to throw out some pretty ridiculous ideas. But before I do so, let me give a quick summary of some of the (seemingly quite limited) things we do know about dark matter.
What is dark matter?
It is believed to constitute a very significant amount of the mass in the universe – and scientists cannot directly observe it, as it doesn’t emit light or energy. Baryonic matter – protons, neutrons and electrons – make up what we can observe, and scientists are unsure whether this dark matter might also be baryonic or, in fact, non-baryonic matter. So it could potentially be made of cool stuff which is just more difficult to detect – like different dwarf stars, neutrino stars or supermassive black holes. It appears that the feeling is that dark matter is probably non-baryonic and a bit more sexy and mysterious.
We know it’s there (or something’s there) because of various studies and observations – galaxy clusters would be expected to drift apart if only the mass we can observe was present in their make-up. There has to be something beyond that which our technology can detect having such a profound influence on spacetime. There are various tests and studies being undertaken by brilliant scientists all over the planet to try to get to a better understanding of what dark matter might be, but so far much of what we know remains speculative. There are all sorts of exciting ideas, new and old, on how we might explain this mysterious presence. A recent Twitter follower of mine, Gregorio Baquero (@GregorioBaquer5), is confident the accelerated expansion of the universe can be explained by the high energy density gravitational wave background (a scheme of thought influence by the ex-Harvard astrophysicist Irwin Shapiro) with the application of the Relativistically Accumulated Mass Equivalent Mechanism (RAMEN). For more on how travelling energy quanta and extra gravitational distortion might explain dark matter, check out Gravitational “Anomalies” Caused by Shapiro Delayed Traveling Energy Quanta Around Galactic and Cosmic Scale Structures
And there is also the (matter!) of dark energy to consider – another invisible force which seems to be countering gravity and helping the universe to expand. All these dark mysterious forces – wow! I’m starting to get a little flustered…
Take a deep breath
So now we have a little background info on what the actual clever people know about dark matter, please allow this rather silly little blogger to take us on a different tangent – allow me to speculate on what I think dark matter could be. What if this ceaselessly vibrating, fluctuating mollusc of spacetime – our universe – is itself a being, of some kind? Obviously not in any kind of form we’d recognise. This dynamic field, these endless wobbles – what if they are just the result of an immense beast drawing its breath? As I say, total nonsense, but the kind of kooky sci-if idea that I love to play with when I think about the absurdity of existence (and not in a Sartre/Camus Nausea/Outsider kind of way).
Losing one’s marbles
When I imagine the scope of our environment actually being a being, I cannot churlishly help myself from thinking of the end of Men In Black (the first – and least shit – of the trilogy). There is a surprisingly elegant and elaborate jokey sequence where Earth’s place in the grand narrative of the cosmos is unveiled – it turns out that our universe is contained within a tiny marble that’s being used by an alien life-form playing some kind of game. It’s absolutely fantastic. Easily the best moment of the film – maybe other than Will Smith firing his tiny pistol for the first time…
Here’s a link if you wanna check it out: Men In Black ending
I appreciate that my speculation is in no way helpful to the progress of humanity, and that is the main crux of my Science, Silliness and the Nucleus of Niceness pieces as a whole, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to know what the truth of existence is? If there is indeed any meaning beyond just being a carbon-based life-form which lives and dies and there’s nothing more to it than that. I can’t say that I believe in god (in the sense proffered by any religion) but we had to come from somewhere. And the way space behaves is just plain weird. Reality is weird. So is the idea that space itself is an actual living entity of some kind so ridiculous? Perhaps not. No? Oh, come on, just give me…. all right, fine.
Dark matter is a similarly abstruse entity – in that no-one knows what the hell it is! And I love that. Dark matter constitutes approximately 85% of the universe (our living, breathing universe, yeah? No? Oh, come on!) And yet the greatest and brightest minds on planet Earth cannot explain it (at least, not as they wish to). It’s supposedly made up of as yet undiscovered subatomic particles. It’s called dark matter because it doesn’t appear to interact with electromagnetic radiation (such as light). I’d love to know what the intuitive dreamer Michael Faraday, one half of the father of the electromagnetic field, might have predicted about what dark matter might be – but seeing as he died in 1867, allow me to offer some more ludicrous suggestions…
Might dark matter be a collection of the souls of every living being that ever existed? Is dark matter the heavens which philosophers and theologians have wracked their brains over for millennia? Or might dark matter be the breath of the immense beast that is our univer… What? No? Oh well, can’t blame a guy for trying!
I don’t believe in ghosts – I’ve never seen one, so I find it easy to just dismiss the idea that they might exist. But I’m guessing that the universe might be alive so what the hell do I know? An ex-girlfriend of mine once suggested that ghosts could be energy remnants of people who have previously lived – like a cloud of electromagnetic smoke; a vapour-like trail of history which manifests itself again and again after the physical form of the person has perished. I love that idea – and so I’d like to propose that dark matter could perhaps just be the remnants of the energy of every living being in the universe. The problem with that idea is that it’s the kind of thing our geniuses could probably calculate quite easily.
Dark matter is gloriously mysterious – it appears to be an entity of which the make-up is beyond our faculties of comprehension. At least it is for now. Is it just in our nature as speculative dreamers to assume its existence is linked to something supernatural? Even though there’s never been any evidence to back up supernatural or spiritual claims.
Maybe dark matter is nothing more than more vibrating particles, disappearing and reappearing electrons (or an equivalent) – maybe it’s nothing more extraordinary than any physics we already know. But maybe not – I invite you, dear reader, to speculate on what you think dark matter might be and please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. And the more outrageous and poetic the better. For all the wonders of knowledge, true genius lies in that which brings us great joy – and music, love and poetry (products of knowledge and soul) do a better job of explaining existence than any textbook ever could. Dream big, speculate, create and have fun – and let me know what YOU think dark matter might be.