Science Saturday: Dark Matter Everywhere
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Much like our own world, the world of Chronsylvania is full of strange natural phenomena. Every week we'll highlight an article that explores the odd, and very real, scientific properties of our universe. We'll also leave you with a writing/drawing prompt based on the article to get your creative juices flowing.
This week, we'd like you to imagine a cosmic force hurlting through space, churning directly toward the Earth at 1.2 million miles per hour. Imagine the catastrophic results of such an impact: the miles-wide crater, the apocalyptic dust cloud blocking out the sun, the unequivocal end of all life on Earth.
Then imagine that threat doesn't exist only in your imagination. Imagine it's real, streaking towards us at the very moment you read this.
Well, imagine no more. Because dark matter is streaming through the Earth, potentially through your very body, and it's happening right now.
Why aren't the world's leading scientists be scrambling to protect us from this vile danger? These horrific cosmic rays? This threat to our very existence?
Well, that's because Dark Matter is not a threat at all. In fact, as far as we humans know (which in this case, is about as far as you can throw a tow truck) the existence of dark matter is simply a fact of the universe, much like the existence of gravity.
Two recent articles, one from CNN written by Don Lincoln of Fermi Lab (follow on Twitter @CNNOpinion and Instagram @fermilab) and the other from Space Daily (Twitter: @_Spacedaily), shed light on the mysterious force known as Dark Matter.
According to the CNN article, Dark Matter is a theoretical form of matter that rarely interacts with ordinary matter, except on a gravitational level. The prevailing theory posits the existence of dark matter as a way to explain many of the otherwise unexplainable gravitational interactions between stars and galaxies. Without the existence of dark matter, our models of physics and gravity simply don't hold up on an astronomical level. According to the Space Daily article, "Dark matter is believed to constitute approximately 27% of the known universe, with ordinary matter accounting for only 4%." This means that, on a universal level, Dark Matter is approximately seven times more prevalent than ordinary matter.
The reason it is called Dark Matter, is because scientists have not yet found a way to observe its existence. If we know this matter exists because of its gravitional effects, but we can't see it, then the matter must be "dark."
But just because we can't observe dark matter with our current technology, doesn't mean that will always be the case. Both articles linked above explain how scientists the world over are completing experiments with existing dark matter detectors to try to observe the dark matter "wind" that flows through Earth and also innovating new types of detectors to help us empirically observe this mysterious force.
And once we are able to actually detect this stuff that is seven times more abundant than all of the planets and stars and galaxies in the universe combined...well, think about it. Humans have been studying observable matter for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Physics, chemistry, biology, geology, pretty much all humanity's history of scientific inquiry, libraries upon libraries of information, has been based on observable matter. And that's only 4% of the known universe. All of that study and we've barely scratched the surface of 4%. Four.
Once we find a way to observe Dark Matter, we will have unlocked another 27% of the universe to explore.
And, if that doesn't get your gears going, then maybe Prof. Farnsworth can help:
Creative Prompt: Just for the sake of creativity, let's pretend that Dark Matter is a very real threat to Earth. It's hurtling towards our planet, and unless some incredibly intelligent, suave, and probably strong individual can save us from this threat, the Earth is doomed (Remember, none of that is true. This is the fiction part of science fiction.) There is only one hero who can save the planet from this terrifying intergalactic threat. Your job this week is to design that hero.
When designing your character, here are some things to consider:
🖊Besides saving the planet, what motivates your character? What do they want more than anything?
🖊What is this character's backstory? How did they find themselves in this situation as the only person able to save the planet?
🖊What is this character deathly afraid of?
🖊What object would they treasure above all else? Where did they get this object? Why is it important to them?
🖊What late-night snack can they simply not get enough of?
🖊What would their living room look like?
If you're an artist, consider how to incorporate the answers to some or all of these questions into your character design.
If you're a writer, write the speech this hero would give to the people of Earth as the dark matter threat looms large, ready to destroy us all.
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Thanks for reading, and we'll see you next Wednesday with a brand new page.
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