Earl's Science Essay:

Ghost   Ghosts Are For Real!  No, Really!  (And Stuff)

For the purposes of this discussion, I'm defining a ghost as a living, self-aware entity capable of moving undetected through the Universe.  This may seem like a reasonable definition from any perspective, but you'll soon discover that it's a considerable cheat that allows me to discuss the existence of ghosts in a scientific, rather than paranormal, context.  (Notice that I didn't say, for instance, that ghosts, for the purposes of this discussion, are dead people.)

But first, some background...

There are times when scientists explain a phenomenon with a well thought-out theory which, in turn, suggests the existence of other phenomena never seen before.  Einstein's Relativity Theory, for instance, suggested the existence of black holes long before we were able to see evidence of their existence in the cosmos.  When this happens, and when the suggested-but-heretofore-unobserved phenomena are shown to exist, it can be a wonderful thing.

But there are other times when scientists see something they can't explain, and they just make up a bunch of crap so the equations don't keep them up at night.  A good example of this is Dark Matter.  Plain and simple, Dark Matter is nothing more than a giant fudge factor that scientists employ to explain the amount of gravity observed holding galaxies together.  Instead of Dark Matter, it could simply be that our understanding of gravity at interstellar distances is incomplete.  There's really no way to tell.

The problem with Dark Matter is that it is utterly impossible to devise an experiment that would confirm or deny its existence.  So scientists have had to live with taunts from the other kids in the playground about Dark Matter being a non-falsifiable crutch.  The problem, simply, is that non-falsifiable theories have, ultimately, no place in the Scientific Method, and the existence of Dark Matter is non-falsifiable.

That is, until recently.  Some eager astronomers have come across a collision so colossal, it's absolutely mind-blowing.  This isn't a collision between two planets, or between two stars, or even between two entire galaxies of stars.  This is a collision between two entire CLUSTERS of galaxies of stars!  Talk about fireworks! 

But for explanation purposes, let's bring this down to a level we can understand.  When two cars collide head on, both going the same speed, they crash together, and pieces go flying, but most of the mass pretty much comes completely to a stop.  The radiator of one car, for instance, can't pass through the car it's colliding with, so it's just stuck in the middle of the collision where it gets crunched.  Similarly, when the two clusters of galaxies collided, the electromagnetic forces between stars, planets, and even galactic dust and gas caused the matter to collide in a fashion similar to that of the two cars in the example.  Things hit, momentum is transferred, and momentum is conserved.

Now if the cars had Dark Matter occupants (this is about ghosts, remember?) who are not bound by three of the four forces of Nature, then they would be able to simply pass through the colliding cars and continue down the road.  Their momentum would not transfer to surrounding matter, except through the force of gravity, which is meager compared to the electromagnetic force that kept the radiator in the center of the collision and crunched it to pieces.

So it is with the colliding clusters of galaxies.  If these clusters were anchored by Dark Matter, as proposed by theory, then it is reasonable to assume that the Dark Matter would not be subject to the electromagnetic forces of collision, and that the Dark Matter would be flung free from the observable matter in the collision.  In other words, this collision is like a Gigantihumongonormous 30-Million-Light year-Diameter Cosmic Salad Spinner that separates normal matter from Dark Matter!  How cool is that? 

But how do you detect one type of matter without the other?  Well, the very clever astronomers came up with a way.  They calculated where a large clump of Dark Matter would be after the collision, if it existed at all, and they tried to look through where that clump should be.  Sure enough, they observed gravitational lensing of objects behind the invisible clump consistent with what the mass of the clump would have been if Dark Matter were for real.

Holy cow!  Dark Matter seems to be for real!  And it's just sitting there, naked, for the first time, ever, for everyone to see!  (As it were.)  To be truthful, the astronomers couldn't believe it themselves.  They actually found evidence of the existence of a stupid fudge factor that someone made up, with very indirect evidence, just to balance an equation so he could sleep at night.  Instead of Dark Matter, it could just as easily have been Giant Cosmic Spiders that someone made up to explain why galaxies are held together.  (Well, maybe not something that silly, but the fact remains that Dark Matter was an extremely lucky guess, as it turns out.)

Though Dark Matter is not subject to normal nuclear and electromagnetic forces, Dark Matter may have its own Dark Nuclear and Dark Electromagnetic forces that it is subject to, allowing it to form structures like Dark Matter stars, Dark Matter galaxies, and even Dark Matter people.  Could you be passing through a Dark Matter companion right now?  Could you be sharing your home with a Dark Matter family living in its Dark Matter world anchored by gravity to our own Earth?

And lest you think I'm suggesting that Dark Matter people, which may or may not exist, are the ghosts of which I speak, I'm actually suggesting quite the opposite.  You see, Dark Matter makes up about 85% of all the matter in the Universe, making it the vast majority of all that is out there.  It exists in such quantity that we can detect it by its sheer mass.  But our entire observable Universe would not be so easily detected by a Dark Matter astronomer, if such existed.  From their perspective, our missing 15% of mass could easily be explained by unseen interstellar dust, rocks, and brown dwarfs.  No, Dark Matter people, if they exist at all, are not the ghosts of which I speak.  They are the normal ones.  On the contrary, with our very rare matter, totally constrained to its own realm unable to interact with normal matter, and subject to an extra three exotic forces of Nature which enable us to develop consciousness and slip completely undetected through the normal cosmos, it is WE who are the ghosts of the Universe.

It makes you all goose-bumpy, doesn't it?

Earl at EarlsTV period net is where to find me.
Copyright (c) by BSW, 2007.  All Rights Reserved.
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