Contemplating Dark Matter and Dark Energy

The Momentum of the Big Bang's Expansion
A model of the expansion of the Universe following the ‘Big Bang’, and contemplating the role of dark energy and dark matter in our ever expanding Universe.

I was thinking of dark energy and a thought came to mind. Dark energy is the force that is expanding our Universe. If you look in any direction into the cosmos you’ll see galaxies moving away from us, and one from one another. If the galaxy is twice as far from Earth it will fly away from us twice as fast. Then there’s dark matter, which is a gravitational force. Too much dark matter versus dark energy and the Universe will eventually slow and collapse in on itself in a ‘Big Crunch’.

The Balance Between Dark Energy And Dark Matter, And That It Ends Bad

Too much dark energy versus dark matter and the Universe will eventually expand to such a degree that even the bonds of atoms will be torn apart, and eventually there will be nothing left but black holes. A trillion or so years later those will have dissipated due to radiation leakage. At the moment of the big bang the singularity expanded to a size larger than our Milky Way in 10^-43 of a second, and then it slowed to a relatively constant rate of expansion for a time, and now it’s accelerating faster, and faster.

Dark matter makes up roughly 23% of the observable Universe and dark energy about 74%. This leaves only around 3-4% room for more precise knowledge of the cosmos that is not so mysterious to us in this realm of physics. It’s better to understand how important it is to integrate these equations into our current understanding of the commonly accepted model of the Universe and the laws in which it operates when we realize how much we don’t know. And that is exciting, enough to inspire some of our greatest minds to work on problems that to almost all of us are unfathomable and inaccessible to be truly able to tackle with mathematical precision that could lead to testable and predictable results.

The Courageous Pursuit Of Illuminating Ignorance Into Knowledge

No one knows what dark energy or dark matter is – they are words, place holders, until scientists know more. You can’t see the forces, but you can observe them indirectly and measure them. I was thinking that perhaps dark energy is ‘simply’ the momentum of the initial expansion of the Universe. In the early Universe matter was more condensed, and the dark matter and regular matter kept the rate of expansion relatively stable. But as more space develops between galaxies, the dark matter and regular matter – both gravitational forces – have less impact on the expansion of the Universe. Perhaps the expansion of space – which can of course travel faster than the speed of light – it theoretically has no limit to its speed – is a given, unless enough gravity exists to keep it in check.

This might be a good time for a physics teacher to weigh in on the subject of how knowing the math is essential for truly exploring the boundaries of physics, though it is the combination of insight into the nature of reality and the ability to express it through maths is what makes for the pioneers and genius’ in their fields.

“you can’t really understand the physics without understanding the math. The math tells how it really works. That’s the real thing; the stories I give you in class are just illustrative; they’re like, fables, say, to help give you a picture. An imperfect model. I mean — even I don’t understand the dead cat. The math is how it really works.” – Larry Gopnik the movie ‘A Serious Man’

Gravity Is Weak, Otherwise You Would Be A Pancake.  Or Awesomely Adapted To The Point Of Incredible Strength, But Then Everyone Is Always On The Same Playing Field, So Just More Stuff Gets Broken

When thinking about dark matter the first thing I considered was black holes, which I soon found out were taken well into account in the maths involved. Gravity is the weakest of known forces; the weak and strong nuclear force, electromagnetism, and of course gravity. Scientists engaged in string theory hope to discover through the LHC – Large Hadron Collider –  indirect evidence of String Theory. The basic premise is if two particles collide with enough force and in the aftermath less mass is detected than should exist, they can infer that mass escaped into another dimension – somewhere in those 11 dimensions theorized by string theorists. If this were the case, it would have to be a Graviton particle, the only force weak enough to be believed possible to interact throughout all the dimensions.

The prevailing scientific opinion is that dark energy wins over dark matter, and eventually all bonds, even the weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force – as alluded to above – will be broken. Of course I’m not an astrophysicist, so when I weigh in on a subject such as this it is purely out of a conceptualization of the information I’ve taken in on these subjects, but not for a moment understand any of the math behind it, save whatever intuitive physics I have, and the language of math gets us closer to the heart of things than the interpretation of math into linguists to communicate to others who do not have your knowledge on the subject. So in short, perhaps dark energy is not a mysterious ‘force’, that we don’t understand the root of, but the continuing momentum from the big bang, and left unchecked by enough gravity, and by the sheer speed the Universe will expand, far past the limits of light. The ratio of space to gravitational forces is ever shrinking.

A hypothesis can be made that if this were the case, the unaccounted gravity – labelled dark matter – could be explained by gravity from other Universes in the multi-verse leaking into our own. The math appears to be in excellent order, but at present it is difficult for theoretical physicists to move the study into the realm of practical physics that can make testable and provable predictions, due to the immense amount of energy it takes to generate conditions, in an incredibly confined space, to simulate the closest we can glimpse to the initial conditions at the big bang. It is through the LHC and the study of black holes that our best understanding of the frontiers of physics is moving, though there are other interesting theories such as loop quantum gravity, or it may turn out none of these theories will unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory. Most astrophysicists are interested to some degree – some specialize exclusively in the area – of the singularity, past the event horizon and into the heart of a black hole, or the moment of the Big Bang, for though we can graph our way back to the milliseconds, there is that one moment in time that is yet to be accounted for, and the study of black holes might just be our best bet.

Challenges Upon Us And Others Ridiculously Far

But this is not a fear for today. For after all the Andromeda galaxy is going to smash into us in two billion years, and in roughly 4-5 billion years our sun will turn into a red giant and we’ll be pushed away from it by gravity as not to be swallowed, but we’ll roast, and we’ll die. Then the Sun will be shrink to a white dwarf – at least according to our current predictions, which give us little doubt as to be precise from what we do know of interplay of the laws of physics. In this light, getting to Mars won’t be the problem, nor colonizing it. Nor will getting to the next solar system. We might have to get to a whole new galaxy. Unless of course, during the cosmic dance of the galaxies a relatively stable location with an Earth like planet could be found, to weather the storm. Our Milky Way would be swallowed up and become a part of the Andromeda Galaxy, and the super massive black holes at the center of our galaxies would merge, become larger and more powerful still.

Of course at present we have our own climate to address, a far more immediate concern. But the pursuit of the unknown and a strong value for science in our culture will breed innovation that may yield the answers to saving our planet. If we can’t count on the world to slow it’s carbon emissions fast enough – and that doesn’t look likely, for it seems too late already – we’ll have to count on the scientists coming up with ways to mitigate or reverse the process of a runaway greenhouse effect.

Exploring The World Through Math And The Loss Of Translation In Words

Science inspires us to explore the world in the practical and theoretically sense becomes what we can learn from it is as close to true as testable predictions that stem from core sciences. Of course any insight I have is either entirely wrong but still interesting, simply ill founded on a simple premise, or interesting, but it goes nowhere provable or testable. The tools of strong mathematical skills are required in the world of theoretical physics, and I’m curious how the mind of such a person operates.

Of course Stephen Hawking is an exceptional example, confined completely by his condition, and over the 30 years he’s surpassed the doctor’s diagnosis of 3 years, he’s still able to do brilliant equations in his mind, and explore the ideas and mathematics without the benefit of a chalk board or free range use of computers, translating thoughts and information in real time into the system. For Stephen it is a laborious process, an assistant living with him, learning how to interpret and even try and guess ahead to hasten along the process. It is a marvelous feat, a unique one, that he has accomplished against all given odds.

The Honest Pursuit of Knowledge Can Unlock Doorways To Broader Means Of Perception

Well I’ve strayed from the original purpose of the article focusing on dark energy and dark matter, and therein lies the beauty of pondering what you can learn of science, as a laymen,  for once you start exploring your own ideas stemmed from research your mind opens up to a greater range of possibilities and doorways of perception can be unlocked. For me, one insight is like a stream, and if I follow it I’m discovering, or simply observing new information, information filtered through my mind, making the experience subjective. If don’t focus on the stream of thought, it fades away, soon vanishing entirely. It then becomes difficult to recollect without some effort, and pick up where I left off.

Thanks for reading, and as always please leave any comments or thoughts that might have arisen from reading the article, and if worthwhile please like and share it.

Also, please take the time to watch Lawrence Krauss, a excellent astrophysicist and communicator of difficult scientific concepts to the general problem, tackle some if the ideas above.  Only he uses maths too.

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Planck Satellite Reveals New Information on matter, dark matter, and dark energy
Updated model of the Big Bang, thanks to the Planck Satellite’s findings

Since the publishing of this article the Planck Satellite has brought us new insight into the age of the Universe and the balance between matter, dark matter, and dark energy.  As it turns out, our Universe is no mere 13.7 billion years old, but a whopping 13.8 billion instead.

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