Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The world next door.

Science is full of weird theories. Some are discounted at once, some are pursued, and despite the protestations of those who think scientists live by some Vulcan-like logic, devoid of emotion, most of the reasons for discounting or pursuing any particular theory are down to human preference.

For example, I persist in attempting to prove the existence of ghosts even though many scientists scoff at the very notion. They discount the theory. I pursue it. Others continue in the quest for cold fusion even though much of science says it can't work. Some insist that the coldest UK winter for 30 years is proof of global warming. I'm not the only single-minded nut out here.

One of my side interests is particle physics. I don't understand the detail of it, never having studied the subject, so I read New Scientist's articles on it rather than Nature's. New Scientist puts scientific information in terms understandable to those who have not studied the particular subject.

I'm interested because of things like this.

(there's an ad first, but there's a 'skip' button at the bottom right)

The bonanza of evidence suggests that dark matter might be far more complicated than we had ever imagined. For starters, the theoretician's favourite dark-matter candidate is falling out of favour, with the latest experiments making the case for new, exotic varieties of dark matter. If they are right, we could be living next to a "hidden sector", an unseen aspect of the cosmos that exists all around us and includes a new force of nature.

Dark matter, apparently, makes up much more of the mass of the universe than 'normal' matter - ie that which we can detect. Since detectable matter is made up of many different types of particle, it always seemed odd to me that dark matter was considered a uniform substance. Now, it seems this is no longer the case. Good. The theory also now holds that this dark matter is not in clumps in parts of the universe but could be all around us all the time. We don't experience it because it interacts only very weakly with the matter we're made of.

Such hidden worlds might sound strange, but they emerge naturally from complex theories such as string theory, which attempts to mesh together the very small and the very large. Hidden worlds may, literally, be all around us. They could, in theory, be populated by a rich menagerie of particles and have their own forces. Yet we would be unaware of their existence because the particles interact extremely weakly with the familiar matter of our universe. Of late, physicists have been taking seriously the idea that particles from such hidden sectors could be dark matter.

Okay, as it stands, science considers the dark matter (90% of the mass of the universe) as an amorphous, structureless mass of particles. However, consider this - the dark matter might have its own forces, its own laws of physics that we don't yet know about. It might have formed a planet we can't see. It might have formed some kind of life. That life might have formed physicists who, even now, wonder about the 10% of matter they can't see. It might include a paranormal investigator who has a faint photograph of me hanging around a derelict church, and nobody believes him.

It might be that we are connected on some level with this other reality and it might be that the part of us that is connected will continue after the matter we are made of has worn out.

Ideas only, but with some basis behind them. Sceptics will laugh it off but that's their choice. The matter that makes our world and all that we can see when we look at the sky at night comprises ten percent of reality. Ten percent. There is ninety percent of reality we know nothing at all about.

So maybe there's an experimentally-verifiable mechanism for the formation of a ghost at death. Maybe there really is a Heaven and Hell - there's plenty of room for them. Maybe that part of us which does interact with the unseen matter is not as prone to ageing and decay as the part we see.

I am sure 'serious' scientists will dismiss all that as the ramblings of a deranged mind. That's no problem. Cuts down the competition from better-funded and better-equipped people.

Since I don't have physics training or any of the massively expensive equipment that goes with that subject, I can't take this much further than thinking about it for the moment. But as the dark matter story unfolds, you can be sure I'll be watching it very carefully.


DeadMouse said...

If you ever get a chance, you should really check out the dvd call "What the Bleep Do We Know?" Its about quantum physics and is really entertaining and fairly acessible for someone who doesn't have a very strong background in the subject. Lots of different people are interviewed and it gives you a great glimpse at what really is the edge of what we understand. I had to rewatch some parts a couple of times just to really absorb what was being was a big "whoa" moment for me.

Romulus Crowe said...

Sounds very interesting indeed. I'll look out for it. Thanks.

My Private Valentine said...

I saw it a long time ago, and vaguely recall that it was pretty interesting.

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