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posted by martyb on Tuesday June 03 2014, @07:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the now-you-don't-see-it-and-now-you-still-don't? dept.

I happened upon a very readable and thought-provoking article on dark matter and thought others might find it interesting, too.

Dark matter is the commonest, most elusive stuff there is. Can we grasp this great unsolved problem in physics?

The past success of standard paradigms in theoretical physics leads us to hunt for a single generic dark matter particle -- the dark matter. Arguably, though, we have little justification for supposing that there is anything to be found at all; as the English physicist John D Barrow said in 1994: 'There is no reason that the universe should be designed for our convenience.' With that caveat in mind, it appears the possibilities are as follows. Either dark matter exists or it doesn't. If it exists, then either we can detect it or we can't. If it doesn't exist, either we can show that it doesn't exist or we can't. The observations that led astronomers to posit dark matter in the first place seem too robust to dismiss, so the most common argument for non-existence is to say there must be something wrong with our understanding of gravity -- that it must not behave as Einstein predicted. That would be a drastic change in our understanding of physics, so not many people want to go there. On the other hand, if dark matter exists and we can't detect it, that would put us in a very inconvenient position indeed.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04 2014, @06:16AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04 2014, @06:16AM (#50938)

    I am also a physicist and this kind of talk about exotic particles drives me nuts when it is very clear that we haven't done nearly enough to account for the ordinary matter in the universe. Astronomy is still only picking the lowest hanging fruit (easiest to observe objects) and we have seen enough that we should expect a "long tail" type distribution with lots of small objects and disperse gasses that add up to significant masses over the enormous volumes of space. Positing new particles based on gravity observations is like looking at a map that has only capital cities marked on it and saying that since the combined population of these cities isn't large enough to eat the worlds food production, then there must exist a race of invisible hungry fairies!