We Can't Explain Dark Matter Because It Doesn't Exist, Says New Study

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 - 11:24AM
Tuesday, 12 December 2017 - 11:24AM
We Can't Explain Dark Matter Because It Doesn't Exist, Says New Study
< >
For years, scientists have been fascinated with the specifics of dark matter, an unknowable, incomprehensible form of invisible matter that exists beyond our ability to perceive the universe.

All kinds of theories have been generated about what dark matter might be like, how it affects the universe, and what we might need to do in order to detect it. Some have even claimed that it might have been instrumental in the destruction of the dinosaurs!

Perhaps, though, there isn't actually any such thing as dark matter. Maybe, as a new theory claims this mysterious otherworldly invisible mass doesn't exist at all—it's just the result of a gross error in calculation.

The study, from André Maeder, an honorary astronomy professor at the University of Geneva, works with the assumption that some numbers are constant in spite of size and scope.

Dark matter was first proposed as an explanation for the fact that the numbers didn't seem to add up—there was far more mass in the universe than there was matter. Something, somewhere, out among the stars, was throwing off our calculations, so that when we added up all the matter from all the stars and planets in existence, we fell very far short of being able to explain the effects of gravity that we were seeing across all of known space.

Gravity and its silhouette remains, but any possible stars, and all their planets, have disappeared. Even Jedi Master Yoda knows that gravity does not lie.

The solution, then, was to theorize that there was additional matter in existence, which couldn't be seen with the human eye, nor any of our sensors. We could see the gravitational effects that this matter was having on the universe, but nothing else was visible.

Except, Maeder's new theory suggests that we might not have entirely understood gravity all along. The theory revolves around scale invariance—the idea that some numbers in physics remain constant, no matter how large they are.

Truly empty space, Maeder claims, may be affected by gravity in the same way, no matter how large the expanse of empty space may be. In this case, our numbers weighing up the mass of the universe might be wrong, and there may not be any dark matter after all.

There is a question of where the burden of proof lies in this theory. Certainly, there's no definitive proof that dark matter exists—unless, of course, you take the gravitational forces and occasional snippets of wisdom from other studies to be enough proof to believe in dark matter without further evidence.

At the same time, Maeder really does need to produce solid evidence that space can be described as scale invariant before his theory can be taken as read. The idea is such a departure from conventional wisdom that he'd need a lot more support and debate from the scientific community in order to sway stalwart dark matter experts.

Besides, recent advancements in technology have proved that sometimes, a lack of advanced technology is the only burden to our being able to perceive distant matter.

The discovery of a method for measuring gravitational waves has quickly transformed a long-theoretical side of astrophysics into an excellent way to better study the cosmos, as we're now able to sense data that was always present, but invisible to our scanners.

It's possible that, with time, we may similarly find a way to detect dark matter. Or, perhaps, as we look across the stars, we'll find some other plausible explanation for the relative size and weight of the universe.

Whatever's going on, we're a long way from figuring it out at present. That makes dark matter a lot of fun—the journey to learn new things about the universe is often the best part of the whole process.