Clothe The Heavens With Blackness

imagesThe title of this post comes from the bible:

“I clothe the heavens with blackness And make sackcloth their covering.” – Isaiah 50:3

I thought it particularly fitting as I want to talk about darkness. In particular Dark Matter and Dark Energy… And why I don’t believe in them.

Why would I lack belief in these things?

Simple. They can’t be seen. We don’t know exactly what they are. In fact we know very little about them except that science says they exist.


urlFirst things first though, a little background.

A little as one hundred years ago, the consensus was that the universe consisted of the galaxy we know as the Milky Way.

Then in 1922-23, Edwin Hubble identified something called the Cepheid variables, which are a class of pulsating stars.  He determined that the relationship between their luminosity and pulsation period made them ideal indicators of distance.

All well and good, but when he then started looking at two spiral nebulae, Andromeda and Triangulum, he realised that they were not part of the Milky Way, they were too far away, and rather than nebulae, they were in fact separate galaxies in their own right.

He also famously discovered that the universe was so much bigger than previously thought and was also expanding.  Every galaxy (or cluster of galaxies) were moving away from each other.

This and other discoveries, in conjunction with the advancements in technology lead to this image:

universe

This is a map of the visible universe. It is approximately 26 billion light-years in diameter and each point is a galaxy.  There are in excess of 100 billion galaxies, each containing approximately 100 billion stars.

The numbers, I’m sure you’ll agree are staggering, quite literally beyond the scope of the human brain to comprehend.

“So what?” I hear you cry, “What has this to do with matter and energy both dark in nature?”

Bear with me… I’m getting to them.

imagesDark Matter

In 1922, the Dutch astronomer, Jacobus Kapteyn first suggested using stellar velocities to infer the presence of extra material in space that was yet to be observed.

Then in 1932, Jan Oort, another Dutch astronomer was studying the motion of nearby galaxies and also realised that the mass in the galactic plane must be greater than was observed. However, his measurements were later discovered to be wrong.

1933 saw a man named Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss astrophysicist working at the California Institute of Technology, was studying a galactic cluster and came to a similar conclusion.  His calculations were more accurate and he showed that the cluster had approximately 400 times more mass than coulld be seen.

urlThe mass of an object in space can be determined by measuring how a body affects nearby bodies.  For instance, the weight of the Sun is known to be 2 x 10^30 kg or 1.98892 Nonillion kilograms (a nonillion = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000)

We know this because it has been calculated using the velocities of the planets in our solar system and how much mass the Sun would require for those orbital speeds to be maintained at their varying distance from the Sun.

Using this same method, the mass of a galaxy can be determined by measuring how it affects nearby galaxies.

Zwicky, then became the first to name this missing substance, dunkle Materie ‘Dark Matter’.

Due to scientific investigation over the years, it is now known that the visible universe consists of only 4% of the mass of the universe.

imagesThat’s right, every galaxy, every star, nebula, pulsar, quasar, planet, moon, asteroid, gas cloud, dust cloud, black hole… Everything we can see makes up less than a 20th of the mass of the visible universe.

The thing about Dark Matter is that we can’t interact with it.  We don’t yet know what it is. What the material is, it doesn’t seem to affect normal matter other than the gravitational effects associated with its existence.

imagesSeveral investigations have looked into which fundamental particles could be involved, from muons or gluons to neutrinos.

A neutrino being a particle we know exists, but have difficulty examining simply because it doesn’t interact with normal matter. At any one time, billions and billions of neutrinoes fly through space and through the planet Earth.  The mass of the the Earth has little to no effect on them.  In fact, it has been calculated that in order to trap a neutrino we would need a wall of lead at least one mile thick.

We still don’t know what dark matter is, but we’re investigating.

So, we’ve had a little look at Dark Matter, let’s move on…

Dark_matter_stride_by_tchaikovsky2Dark Energy

In 1998, Saul Perlmutter,Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess suggested that the universe was not only expanding, but that the expansion was accelerating.

Various measurements of cosmic background radiation, gravitational lensing and the large-scale structure of the universe has confirmed their theory, leading to their winning of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011.

The problem was that the acceleration of the expansion was in direct contradiction to the gravitational effects of dark matter on the the visible matter.

Further study showed that dark matter actually made up only 24% of the mass of the universe and this new unknown force made up the remaining 72%.

It was named Dark Energy.

Two proposed forms for dark energy are Albert Einstein’s cosmological constant, a constant energy density filling space homogeneously, and scalar fields such as quintessence or modulidynamic quantities whose energy density can vary in time and space.

So, we know it exists, but as with dark matter, we have no real idea of what it is, and once again, we are investigating.

Conclusion

I’ll bet you’re wondering why I don’t believe in Dark Matter or Dark Energy. After all, I’ve provided you with, if not complete evidence of them, but at least a starting point for you to continue your own study if you wish.

Allow me to explain.

Science made observations of the visible universe and hypothesised certain things. Just as in past history, religion made observations of the visible universe and hypothesised certain things.

However, unlike religion, science did not simply tell the population to believe what it had to say without question. Science did not put people to the sword for failing to believe what it had to say.

I accept that, even though we still don’t know what they are, dark matter and energy exist.  Because contrary to the religious standpoint, science has produced credible evidence to back up its assertions.

I don’t believe in dark matter or dark energy because I don’t have to.

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11 Responses to Clothe The Heavens With Blackness

  1. thbmag says:

    I bloody loves science!

    And I love your attitude! ‘I know it’s real, and calculable, but I’m not going to believe, because I can so ya boo to you!

    😂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Les Robertshaw says:

    I am disappointed and surprised! Henrietta Leavitt , one of many human (all female) computers working in astronomy discovered the relationship between periodicity and brightness in Cepheids and Milton Humanson (a former mule driver and janitor) took many photographs and spectrogams of receding galaxies. He developed new methods 4 taking pis and spectra of very faint galaxies.
    Hubble did not do it all

    Like

  3. Les Robertshaw says:

    Despite my earlier criticism this was a very good blog . Thanks

    Like

  4. FreeAtheism says:

    So you don’t even believe in them provisionally? Cuz that’s allowed. Science hasn’t even pinned it all down enough to end up being terribly wrong when they reveal more. Like if dark energy ends up being an energy created by “willful ignorance” they will point at it and still be right that it existed in energy form. Lol.

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    • I think you’re missing my point. Dark matter and dark energy exist. We KNOW they exist even if we can’t directly observe them or know what they are. There is enough credible evidence to show that they exist… Unlike God. So because we KNOW they exist, I have no need to believe in them.

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      • Les Robertshaw says:

        A person arguing against the existence of God has the same amount of evidence as one arguing for the existence of God and that is none.There is no evidence to argue over. Those who take a side thinking they know what they are talking about are mistaken. “I don’t know” is the only rational answer to the question; “Does God exist?”

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      • You conflate knowledge with belief. Agnosticism and atheism are two different beasts.

        Also, I don’t argue against the existence of God(s) I simply state that until a theist can provide ANY evidence at all to support their position then I won’t believe.

        Whilst I freely admit a lack of evidence is not an evidence of lack, it must be said that just one piece of evidence couldn’t hurt your cause.

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      • Les Robertshaw says:

        I am an agnostic atheist. Which means I don’t know nuthin regarding the existence or non existence of anything supernatural
        Is that quote from Simon Blackburn. If not it’s very close to what he said.

        I cannot argue for or against bcuz there is no evidence either way . All that can be said is “Show me your evidence.”
        Heers

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  5. Minor correction: “weight of the Sun” -> “mass of the Sun”

    The rest of this is just musing – not criticism…

    Slight equivocation here as “to believe” also just means to hold something as true, so it’s not wrong for someone to say they believe in a scientifically & logically sound conclusion. I see it more as a need to be very careful about WHAT are we holding to be true.

    [Of course YOU get to define the sense in which you use the term when you use it so I’m not saying you are ‘wrong’ either]

    Dark Matter & Dark Energy are more properly understood as merely descriptive of their apparent effect – I believe the measurements, but I have no idea what they *mean* in terms of the next level of description. It is possible (although unlikely at this point) that this effect is illusory (in the sense that it is not what it appears to be) or the by-product of already existing forces. That is what we need to tease out and that is why I might say I don’t “believe” in Dark Matter or Dark Energy as a thing unto itself just yet. I also don’t believe in Black Holes – I believe in really dense things that are close to black holes but we haven’t establish that a formal Black Hole actually exists. I leave room in my “belief” for corrections down the road. For example, http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0405353

    Ironically perhaps this holds true for everything we know but there is an important distinction to be drawn…

    Think of an electron – what is it? All we really have is a mathematically accurate description of it’s observed behavior (and only a probabilistic description at that). It is the way that it fits into a *virtuous* circle that also encompasses the other particles & fields and their behaviors which have predictive value that gives the concept value. This virtuous circle is currently missing for DM/DE – it doesn’t fit into the same context or framework yet.

    Perhaps there is something going on a deeper level than perhaps we can know, where electrons are really some other, more fundamental, “thing” doing what it does and that thing might encompass all the “fundamental” particles we can see from “inside” the universe. But without evidence for such a thing we do NOT believe in it – we do NOT hold it as true that such a thing exists. We ponder such things for their explorative value, a very different thing.

    I play around with Cellular automata a lot and I like to imagine what it might be like to create a fully complex “AI lifeform” inside that CA and how it might experience the world and what could it learn about its universe while existing “inside” it. It could take measurements and observe the “speed of light” which would be a function of how rapidly state can move through the CA. It could measure “time passing” in many ways but would forever be unaware of the actual calculation time to refresh the CA with the next state. Even if it could build a fully accurate model of its universe it would merely be descriptive and could never infer the actual computational matrix in which it exists or the rules under which that operates.

    But we cannot infer from this that WE live in a computer simulation. Such musings are fun but solipsism and it’s kin offer no predictive value. But we can be aware that it is very possible that there are natural limits on what we can know about a Universe being objects embedded in it and we can frame our “beliefs” with that context in mind.

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    • Allow me to elucidate. Dark Matter and Dark Energy (and now Dark Flow as well) have a definite, measurable effect. Therefore they exist, whatever they are… They exist, regardless of the labels that have currently been applied to them.

      It follows then that as they provably exist, I have no need to believe in them, even though I don’t know what they are. Unlike God (or Gods) who have NEVER been able to provide any evidence whatsoever of their existence.

      I agree with you about the fun to be found in exploring AI a la Matrix, but I have to say that even if we are all nothing more than entities in some futuristic cyberspace, it really has no bearing. As we would still be in a universe limited by the “natural laws” put in place by the programming and we STILL have no evidence for the existence of celestial programmers.

      The important word there is EVIDENCE. Provide evidence that programmers/God/Gods exist and I will be willing to amend my stance, until then I will not.

      Also, I refute your correction about the weight/mass of the Sun. Weight I said and weight I meant.

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      • Les Robertshaw says:

        I used to claim to be an atheist but then realized I had no evidence prove my claim Now I am an agnostic atheist. I know nothing except there is no evidence 4 or agin

        Like

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