The Daily Flannel – Does Dark Matter Really Matter?
(BBC, Horizon: Is Everything We Know About the Universe Wrong?)

MeLast night I watched a great comedy show about a bunch of the world’s topmost boffins squirming in their pants at the realisation that perhaps they know nothing about how the universe works or how it came into being. The punch line: Dark Matter.
The great realisation that is making all astronomers, astrophysicists, particle physicists and the like sweat is that in order for our universe to exist in the ordered way that it does suggests that there is something in the spaces in between all the light/wave emitting matter, that is making the universe behave in that way, but that they simply cannot detect with all their mathematical computations, and specialist instruments, and degrees of genius.
Yet, the fact that something exists outside of all known laws of physics is not in doubt. Something that is not physical, does not adhere to the rules of time and space, and apparently is within all of us, everything, everywhere, at all times. It can pass through physical objects according to the commentary, but of course this is a somewhat asinine assumption if this Dark Matter is omnipresent, right?
I found myself chuckling away throughout the hour long comedy sketch…what was that?

Oh…it wasn’t a comedy? It was a serious documentary you say?…sorry, my mistake.

What amused me the most was that the conclusion of Dark Matter existing was reached based upon existing scientific models. The assumption that the only way that planets, galaxies, light/wave emitting space objects could exist with so much space in between them, there needed to be something in that in-between that increased the gravitational pull required for all physical space objects to exist in the way that they do. The obvious contradiction being if this Dark Matter is outside of the remit of the laws of known physics, then how would it possibly exist based upon the existing model?

It’s a bit presumptuous really, and probably slightly erroneous to think that way. But what else do they have to go on I suppose?

The truth is, they haven’t a clue what they are dealing with. They don’t know. It’s all theory as the smart lady with the glasses quite rightly reminds herself and us. The boffins admit that they like their tried and tested safety net of a universe that started with a bang, because it’s comfortable and stable, but like all nets, theirs too has great big gaping holes. In fact the only reason the net saves you at all is because of the gaps, gives it bounce you know.

Throughout the show, my favourite statement kept stepping up to the fore: ellipsis is the key to all good story telling. Without the gaps and the holes nothing would exist in the cleverly defined way that it does. Nothing would have meaning. For there to be a theory at all, there has to be omission of other potentially key factors, otherwise you define nothing. Zilch.

Exactly what the eggheads said too. It says that quantifiable evidence is only relative to what it apparently quantifies, but like the vast amount of space that exists between stellar objects, there is left a lot of room for movement and conjecture. And if this dark matter is within us, then it surely shapes our very own thought processes too. After all, we are of the universe, and as the dude at the beginning of the show says, the universe is within us. I think he meant that quite literally.

There is stuff that we can’t physically detect, that is known to exist. It isn’t esoteric, or spiritually inclined, yet to all intents and purposes it falls within the same remit, the remit that is, of the unexplained. Gives food for thought I reckon, and as I said it amuses me no end.

In fact it could even be surmised, based upon all this theorising, that dark matter gives purpose to all things physical. The purpose that is to do and be what it is, in the way that it does it. Smacks of a very familiar concept if you ask me. Nope, don’t tell me, it’s on the tip of my tongue…

If you have a spare hour, it’s a good watch. Maybe you’ll get a laugh out of it too. It’s still making me smile.

Have a wonderful day all!



30 thoughts on “The Daily Flannel – Does Dark Matter Really Matter?

  1. I’ll watch this before the day is out. When I saw your fb post, it linked me to an article that said Aussie boffins recently did some work that suggests there is exactly 1/2 the amount of dark matter as previously thought. The Church of Scienceocity had previously determined, according to the Holy Book of Math, that the Universe (just the one) was 4% matter (people, and tigers, and stars, oh my!) 25% dark matter, and the remaining 71% dark energy. Now, ignore the fact that they know less about dark energy than dark matter. What’s interesting is that now it seems there’s less of the dark matter that thought.

    So is there more dark energy, which in math equations is noted as “WTF?”, or is there, as SpongeBob would say, some other fourth thing? Stay tuned … the scriptwriters haven’t come to that bit yet.

    As Charlie and Robin would say, “Don’t worry, it’s All good.”

    1. There is always going to be stuff that is unknowable given the nature of the questions asked and the measuring tools, right?
      Tried and tested, cultural practise has a lot to do with it, and the culture of science as it stands is quite rigid in many ways, which is what all the boffins on the show were attesting to because of all the rigorous analysis and testing that is currently required before a theoretic model is accepted as plausible. Fair enough, but, as any intelligent person knows, the moment you limit your potential through the application of rigid structure, then you inhibit your ability to see more than the structures allow you to believe.
      The resounding conclusion amongst them all was that they haven’t got a bloody clue, they don’t like that their beloved laws of physics and The Big Bang Theory no longer stand up to scrutiny, however, at the same time they all want to be the one picking up the Nobel Prize for discovering what trashes it. They don’t like that everything sciency is theoretical, preferring to deal with hard ‘theoretical’ facts instead. Funny if you ask me.

      1. The one thing that strikes me is that all these centuries after Galileo, science is still a consensus enterprise, and heretics are still shouted down with threats of being tossed into the abyss. Then, as you point out, some heretic wins a Nobel Prize that upturning all the theories and suddenly the boffins are science protestants instead of catholics.

        I still believe in Occam’s Razor: given competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Physics has become all assumptions.

      2. The ‘theory’ theory is of course a failsafe. Something that in pre-modern science wasn’t exercised so much. Facts were immutable truths that couldn’t be tampered with, that is, until someone came along and proved them wrong.
        So, today’s scientists, still caught up in those old fashioned religioso ideals, are bound by their oath to be researchers of highly mutable hypotheticals. It’s a tough call, enough to make a serious boffin go a bit gaga I would imagine. I blame Descartes personally for impugning upon the learned and free of the time his view of the world that rather lacked in any kind of empathy for his fellow human, or himself for that matter. Such people have no idea what a pain they can be. Thanks to him, the imperial method of modern investigative science was born, of course that is, after the Greeks who came before him, and whomever came before them. The major flaw being that the unexplainable, i.e. that which could not be measured, was simply ignored. Ironic that the boffins now find themselves at full circle, faced with that very same dilemma, knowing that the only way forward is to finally acknowledge the unmentionable; the dreaded unknown.

        You’re right of course, it is usually the least explored path that leads to change and innovation.

      3. The world was flat once.

        The universe revolved around our planet, which was the centre thereof (actually, if it is as infinite as some think, every point therein can be the centre).

        The answer to the great question is: exactly ten thousand. (Dunno where I found that answer but it was written with great assurance.)

        Rockets can’t work in space ‘cos there’s nothing for them to push against.

        The speed of a steam train will terminate all who travel in it.

        Man will never fly in anything heavier than the air it displaces.

        Dark matter, though, I know nothing about—but it sounds like a great weasel way of saying “We don’t know”. Good, I like weasels … especially that guy in Shrek 3 (the Dinosaurs one).

        And later on—if I remember, the ol’ mind ain’t what she used to be—I’ll watch that item.

      4. It was exactly that, as you say a weasel way of saying they really don’t have a clue, and it’s a problem for the future of astrophysics until a working solution can be found. All that has happened is that they have erred on the side of caution, reverting back to the good ol’tried and tested theories that apparently no longer hold up. Like the comfy pair of slippers you don’t want to throw away, but you know you should because they are a bit moth-eaten, and leak rain when you step outside.

        Hardly a very sporting attitude for a scientist now is it?

  2. Who’s saying Dark Matter (and Dark Energy) exists outside the laws of nature? It might not liberate photons, but it certainly interacts with other objects through its gravity. True, though, that it represents a lot of “stuff” we don’t know. Doesn’t mean we won’t know. Whatever the answer, I hope it’s amazing 🙂

    1. I suppose the point of the documentary was that both Dark Matter and Dark Energy fall out of the remit of the laws of physics because as they currently stand they are inadequate to explain or quantify what it is. I agree though that it doesn’t necessarily imply that Dark Matter and its variants are exempt from the laws of nature, because apparently nature doesn’t work without it. Also true that we may one day have a more adequate explanation. Though it would seem that a revision in the tools used is required in order to even reach a salient and workable theoretic model. We are well within our capabilities of knowing exactly what this undetectable stuff is, it’s just a case I think of daring to ask the right questions. Which I suppose is where quantum physicists step in to varying degrees.
      I hope you’re right though, that it turns out to be something amazing. 🙂

      1. I think there are a fair few surprises awaiting scientists, if only they would begin asking the right kind of questions. Personally I think anything and everything is possible, I mean, why not? Who could prove otherwise?

      2. If it exists at all it exists within Nature—?

        I don’t think we (we? Oh well …) can rewrite Nature but we can redesign our thoughts thereon. So long as we keep getting milked to fund the eggheads’; research grants, God is in Her heaven and all is well with the world (on all scales). No?

      3. The assumption was that it exists in everything, so nature is a go.
        I agree that we can redesign our thoughts about the world we inhabit and that apparently inhabits us. Personally I happen to believe that we can redesign our world too. If this Dark Matter influences the course of things and we are full of its undetectable presence, then surely we would have the same capability too, no?

  3. How about this then:

    there should be no (r) no government funding of science. Zilch. Nada. Let all science be funded by voluntary donation (or royalties from sales of product).

    And if it be decided that ‘defence’ spending be involved, which of course means the public purse, then that too be put to the taxpayer—first—by way of binding referendums.

    ‘Science’ would once more be serving practical (it means realistic) purposes, and wouldn’t be a taxpayer funded bunfight of wacky ideas all the time. And perhaps the few who see ‘through the glass darkly’ wouldn’t be afraid to speak lest they be pilloried?

    1. There is a lot of support care of the public coffers that gets squandered on scientific institutions that provide no real practical application for the data they find. It never ceases to astound me that the Royal Institute still exists, harking back proudly to its forefathers as if they were great innovators, of genius calibre, rather than the god-fearing, over-privileged lotharios that they were. The only consistent factor being that they knew just about as much as modern scientists do now. Zilch.
      I agree that government (our) money should be put towards better causes, and that the scientists with their crackpot ideas go back to sitting in the fringes, and stop taking the bloody spotlight.
      However, you have to admit that the shoe fits right now in Westernised societies, because its a powerful and convenient way of enforcing control, and masking the fact that the facts they propose are built upon a bunch of lies, or semi-truths.
      So entrenched in this mindset are we, from birth no less, that it takes a strong willed person to see ‘through the glass darkly’, and even more full of gumption to speak up on it without catching the odd low flying egg in the face.
      You are right that we the public need to resume control of such things, deciding where our hard earned cash goes. Of course, people power only really works if you have consensus, and that’s where it can get a little mucky I suppose, as you will always have that contingent of sheeples that completely miss the point.

      However, it bodes well to remember that all kinds of change are possible given the right impetus to see it through. It only takes one person to start the ball rolling.

      1. I like it~! You have it spot on … sadly I gave away the idea of ever hoping to be that ‘one person’ — life is too brief a candle; and who will ever listen to a crank? (Hey, Marxists did/do … easier to listen to Marx than Rand~?!)

        There’s a magazine her in NZ called ‘Investigate’ which comes out with a ‘His’ and a ‘Hers’ variant back-to-back and upside down to each other. I shall be quoting heavily from it, soon, when I stop being so emotionally responsive and become objective again: written by a recent graduate of the kiwi ‘teacher training’ system, he/she’s jumped ship for somewhere overseas and made a wee exposé that fairly rattled my cage.

        So I’m not the only nut in the packet …

      2. I’m intrigued now. I shall keep a sharp weather eye on upcoming posts of yours re this magazine which has you so incensed.

        I still believe one single crank can move mountains. Influence is a fluid etherial thing indeed and can spread far and wide in the mere blink of an eye, probably less in fact. Hell if you step aside from the hurdle of time, then it’s instant!

        Fruit and nut was always my favourite chocolate bar.

    1. It impresses and amazes me that someone actually calculated this and accepted it as a fact, despite the obvious limitations that mathematics poses. It’s a closed system in the sense that it can only tell you what it can tell you, all else outside of its remit must be moot. Of course!

      Scientists and mathematicians alike are rare souls indeed.

  4. Question: If you don’t know what dark energy is, or how it works, how can you know the properties of an explosion of dark energy? In other words, if the Big Bang was real (and it isn’t) but was caused by a dark energy burst, how do boffins know that it wouldn’t scatter debris in a perfectly uniform manner?

    This is so obviously a “We know our theory is wrong and we haven’t a clue now.”

    1. Yeah, and as you saw on the show itself, they also realised that apparently the universe was a uniform temperature too, throughout. How they know this is a little dumbfounding, but I suppose with their hypothetical mathematical dowsing devices they can make fairly accurate assumptions. Too many oxymorons methinks spoil the broth. It’s more like a psychotic episode than a rational mind at work.
      What astounds me further about staunch scientists is that they appear to be most unwilling to recognise that their tools of the trade will only produce certain objects, outcomes that are limited by the hypothetical space they are being shoehorned into. You cannot make an elephant fit into a Mini Cooper, no matter how much you try.

      “I know! We’ll take a picture of the elephant and place it on the dashboard, there we go, the elephant fits now!”

      Fucking idiots. Seriously?

      Meanwhile Elephant decides to trample the Mini-Cooper with boffins and selfie inside. Job done. Hows that for gravity?

  5. Okaaaaay … now I’ve watched it. Question: did anyone else get a blasted commercial every couple of minutes, at times with sound track superimposed over the actual show? Ye gods …

    As for the show itself, I’m impressed by no wiser …

    1. Sorry it was such a poor viewing experience for you, if I’d known I would have found a better copy.
      The feeling of being none the wiser is the bit I found particularly entertaining…

      Well done for sweating it out. 🙂

      1. So it wasn’t just my reception … phew! 🙂

        For myself I have two major unexplained conundrums (a) time, and (b) gravity.
        Lacking the maths to figure them out (and lacking faith in the Great Gurus with the maths) I put both on the back burner and leave it running in auto. Sometimes I lift the lid and peep in …

        As for the experts, someone said to the effect that ‘the laws of science break down in a black hole’. Someone else said that if you survived falling into a BH you’d pop out the other side in a new universe. Charles Dobson in Victorian times made a few bucks saying almost the same thing and he was a brilliant mathematician; so the concept is nothing new.

        Furthermore: eeek!

      2. The concept of the black hole has always intrigued me. It’s an odd one. I remember having conversations with my brother about them when we were kids, he was fascinated by them. I really thought he’d end up being one of those space boffins being that he absolutely loves maths, and still loves his astronomy. He became a software engineer instead.

        I suppose I’ve always had that sense that these people were just looking in the wrong places for the answers they sought. It seemed to me that they just liked the chase.

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