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Dark matter bothers me. It also bothers scientists.

Galaxies don’t rotate by the same physics that we know and understand. Scientists noticed that stars at a galaxy’s edge rotate faster than expected. How can we explain that? There must be matter that is invisible to us that is there.

In 1998 and the Hubble Space Telescope observations of a very distant supernovae showed that a long time ago the universe was actually expanding more slowly than it is today. We once believed that gravity was causing the slowing expansion of the universe, but this showed that it was accelerating.

expansion of universe

A diagram reveals showing the rate of expansion since the universe’s birth 15 billion years ago. The curve changes noticeably about 7.5 billion years ago, when objects in the universe began flying apart at a faster rate. Astronomers theorize that the faster expansion rate is due to a mysterious, dark force that is pulling galaxies apart. Credit: NASA/STSci/Ann Feild

Astronomers know more about what dark matter is not than what it actually is. Roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest is, well, everything on Earth. This “normal matter” is less than 5% of the universe. Actually, that hardly makes it qualify as the”norm.”

Most of the universe is made up of dark energy, and that mysterious force drives the accelerating expansion of the universe. The next largest ingredient is dark matter, and that only interacts with the rest of the universe through its gravity.

At one time, the theory was that MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects) was the cause.  A MACHO, such as a brown dwarf, would be so massive that it would bend light around them. We know they exist, and we know they are out there, even though they are too dark for us to see. But this theory fell out of favor because there are not enough of them to make the galaxy-rotation math work.

Astrophysicists next came up with the WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles – the scientists do have a sense of humor). Maybe the universe is full of very small things we can’t see.

And maybe dark matter is made up of a different object we have never observed. One candidate is the neutralino.

We keep looking. The Large Hadron Collider, one of the most expensive science experiments ever built, is looking, but hasn’t found them.

But we do know that the universe is “heavier” than what we can see.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

Dark matter doesn’t keep me up at night. But it did bother Alvy in the film Annie Hall.

This past Memorial Day Weekend, we had some clear skies and some rainy ones. On one clear evening in Paradelle I was able to see a very bright “star” near the moon. It looks like a star, but it is Jupiter.

Venus sets in the west not too long after the sun sets, and the Moon and Jupiter were the two brightest objects in the sky.

I knew to look for a fainter true star. It is fainter but still one of the brightest stars, even in the moon’s glare. This is Spica. It is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. I’m not very knowledgeable about the zodiac, but I know it is a key star in that study.

Spica is a first-magnitude star, but it appears much fainter than Jupiter. That is because Jupiter is relatively close (or at least nearer)to Earth. This is what draws me to gazing at the night sky is my semi-knowledgeable way: the idea that Spica is about 262 light-years away, and I am looking at its light.

The universe makes me think about the original meanings of words like WONDERful and AWEsome.

Spica is the easiest star to spot in Virgo. There is a saying to find Spica you can “follow the arc of the Big Dipper to Arcturus and speed on to Spica.” But that probably doesn’t make it any easier for the average Earthling to find because most people know very little about the night sky.

Besides Spica, other bright stars in Virgo include many I had never heard of: β Virginis (Zavijava), γ Virginis (Porrima), δ Virginis (Auva) and ε Virginis (Vindemiatrix). Other fainter stars that were also given names are ζ Virginis (Heze), η Virginis (Zaniah), ι Virginis (Syrma) and μ Virginis (Rijl al Awwa).

Again, the wonder and awe of all this is discovering that one of the stars, 70 Virginis, has one of the first known extrasolar planetary systems and it contains a confirmed planet 7.5 times the mass of Jupiter. I can’t even really grasp the size of my own Earth. And the star Chi Virginis has one of the most massive planets ever detected, at a mass of 11.1 times that of Jupiter. And there are 35 verified exoplanets orbiting 29 stars in Virgo.

All this makes me feel like such a small part of the universe. But i also makes me feel part of the universe.


This first appeared on One-Page Schoolhouse

Science and atheism usually sit at the same table. They are friendly. Sometimes they sit at the agnostics table, and it’s not that they are never friendly to the believers, but they have their usual place.

One time, over drinks, one of the believers said to science, “Well, I know you believe in one miracle.”

“Oh, what’s that?” said science, laughing.

“The Big Bang. Everything from nothing. That’s a pretty big miracle.”

Which brings us to infinity. It’s a topic so vast and unimaginable for most of us to wrap our brains around.

Infinity? Forever? Wait, what came before that big bang?

Physicists have a hard enough time figuring what happened at the very first moment of the big bang. But what about before that? Did time or anything exist before it?

Theories are out there. Maybe there was a series of bangs and they keep happening.  What about that whole string theory thing?

Maybe the universe isn’t infinite. Maybe it is just really big. Sounds like a joke, but cosmologist Janna Levin uses that kind of questioning in one of her books. And she is looking at a group of Big Questions –  black holes, the big bang, extra dimensions, and dark energy – questions so big we have to sometimes laugh.

That hit me hard in the funny part of the brain in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. The idea that the universe is expanding is scary.

In Janna Levin’s How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space we can follow her through the the paradoxes of finitude. Those hot and cold spots left over from the Big Bang have a pattern that may eventually reveal the true size and shape of the cosmos.

“For a long time I believed the universe was infinite. Which is to say, I just never questioned this assumption that the universe was infinite. But if I had given the question more attention, maybe I would have realized sooner. The universe is the three-dimensional space we live in and the time we watch pass on our clocks. It is our north and south, our east and west, our up and down. Our past and future. As far as the eye can see there appears to be no bound to our three spatial dimensions and we have no expectation for an end to time. The universe is inhabited by giant clusters of galaxies, each galaxy a conglomerate of a billion or a trillion stars. The Milky Way, our galaxy, has an unfathomably dense core of millions of stars with beautiful arms, a skeleton of stars, spiraling out from this core. The earth lives out in the sparsely populated arms orbiting the sun, an ordinary star, with our planetary companions. Our humble solar system. Here we are. A small planet, an ordinary star, a huge cosmos. But we’re alive and we’re sentient. Pooling our efforts and passing our secrets from generation to generation, we’ve lifted ourselves off this blue and green water-soaked rock to throw our vision far beyond the limitations of our eyes.”

The universe is big, but if you’re feeling crowded for space luckily there are probably many universes  scattered through time and space.

I have read that it might be that every time I make a choice a new universe opens. In one of these worlds, I am writing this; in another, I am climbing Mt. Fuji.

This certainly is the stuff of science-fiction, but physicists think the multiverse could be real.

We do love those“what if” questions. What if I had made the other choice? Better, worse, or just different? What if  the road not taken was taken? What if you actually took both roads, but one was in another universe?

Before you leave this post and head into one of those multiple universes, let me alert you to some of the theories. Try searching on “the quilted multiverse,” “the inflationary universe” and “the ultimate multiverse.”

This is not such a new idea.

“The idea of multiple universes is about 2,500 years old,” says Mary-Jane Rubenstein, a professor of religion and philosophy at Wesleyan University. Before people with advanced degrees were theorizing, the Atomist philosophers, of ancient Greece were considering it 2500 years ago. “The Atomists believed that it was not the case that some anthropomorphic god or gods made the universe so it was perfect, but that our world was one of an infinite number of other worlds. Worlds were the product of accident, of particles colliding with one another, and an infinite amount of space to play in.”

Leucippus and his pupil Democritus proposed that all matter was composed of small indivisible particles called atoms. That was their way of reconciling two conflicting schools of thought on the nature of reality. On one side was Heraclitus, who believed that the nature of all existence is change. On the other side was Parmenides, who believed instead that all change is illusion.

If you think multiverses are confusing, then consider good old Parmenides. He rejected sensory experience as the path to an understanding of the universe in favor of purely abstract reasoning. He believed there is no such thing as “void” and therefore “if the void is, then it is not nothing; therefore it is not the void.”

In an interview, Rubenstein reminds us that even when Copernicus knocked us out of the center of the solar system, and Darwin knocked us out of Eden, we were still sure we were running the show on Time and other big things in this universe.

Oh, and this definitely leads to theological problems. Not that scientists care. Rubenstein brings up that in a Christian framework, you would have to wonder about those inhabitants of those other universes. Did they also Fall? Did Christ redeem them? Is He moving from universe to universe to get incarnated, teach for 30 years, and then die?

I’m just wondering what I’ll be doing in this universe this year. It hurts my brain to wonder what I will be up to in parallel Paradelles.

Astronomers have found evidence of a giant void. A giant void that ironically could be the largest known structure in the universe. This supervoid might explain why there is a large and anomalously cold region of the sky.

It stretches so far that it is measured in time, not space.  1.8 billion light years across the sky when universe was 11.1 billion years old. Numbers so large, we can’t grasp their meaning. And yet, this is relatively recent on cosmic timescales.

This “cold spot” can be seen in maps of the Cosmic Microwave Background. That is the radiation left over from the birth of the universe.  You can see this place of nothing, but it is still unexplained. Perhaps it is the imprints of parallel universes.

How wonderful to be a person searching for nothing in a universe full of holes. Voids, devoid of matter and gravitational pull that will take the energy from a particle of light, a photon, and then give it back.

But in our expanding universe, the photon exits into a new medium that is less dense. It can’t make up all the energy it lost and so it is cooler than light from regions on the sky that did not pass through the void.

Mapping the sky, looking  for voids and clusters and discovering time-variable objects, supernovae and gamma ray bursts is probably a life full of data, but it seems rather Romantic to me tonight as I type this and the night slides over my window and makes the letters harder to find.


Explore the science of all this at:



Science doesn’t have any interest in an afterlife. Unprovable. Then there’s Robert Lanza. He has a theory of biocentrism that says that death is an illusion created by our consciousness.

Take that a bit further.  He says he has evidence – via quantum physics – of an existence beyond the grave.

Lanza, from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, is a scientist in the fields of regenerative medicine and biology. The biocentric universe views biology as the central driving science in the universe. He proposed the theory in 2007.  Life creates the universe rather than the other way around.

If you accept biocentrism, then the current theories of the physical world do not work. They will only work if you place biology before the other sciences to produce a “theory of everything.”  This is the century of biology.

This video segment if from the film What The Bleep Do We Know!?: Down The Rabbit Hole. It illustrates the Double-Slit Experiment. Even with this simplified explanation, it is a tough concept to grasp. Give it a viewing.

In the experiment, scientists shoot a particle at two slits in a barrier and they observe that the particle behaves like a bullet and goes through one slit or the other.

But, if a person doesn’t watch the particle, it acts like a wave. That means it can go through both slits at the same time.

Matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles. The behavior of the particle changes based on a person’s perception and consciousness. This is not something only Lanza believes. It is quantum physics.

That is strange enough, but it leads you to also theorizing that everything which can possibly happen is occurring at some point across multiverses. (Theoretical physicists believe that there is infinite number of universes with different variations of people, and situations taking place, simultaneously.)

So, there is no “death” as we generally conceive of it.  I’m not sure that will make you sleep any easier at night.

Look at the image at the top of this post. What color is it? Do you see blue? Your eyes or your brain could be altered and it would be red. What is its true color? Does it have a true color? Our consciousness makes sense of the world, and it can be altered to change this interpretation.

To a biocentric believer space and time don’t behave in the ways our consciousness tell us it does. Space and time are  mental constructs. What you see could not be present without your consciousness,’ explained Lanza. ‘Our consciousness makes sense of the world.’

If you are thinking that Robert Lanza is some kind of fringe science oddball, you’re wrong. He is pretty mainstream. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. I started reading his book, Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. His theory is simple yet radical. If we lived in the 15th century, the idea that the world was a big, round rock and not flat would have sounded like total nonsense. [see comment]

Death? Lanza says that when we die our life becomes a “perennial flower that returns to bloom in the multiverse.” That is an afterlife. Not the kind you had imagined.  Can you wrap your mind around that idea?


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