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Roger Highfield on walking by faith and not by sight, in science

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artist’s conception/Caltech, R. Hurt (IPAC)

Responding to the “Buzz from the planet beyond Neptune,” (planet detected by instruments other than sighting), director of xtrnal affairs at the Science Museum, Roger Highfield tells us,

In today’s science, we no longer have to see to believe

Last week I met the distinguished Harvard particle physicist Lisa Randall, who has linked a mysterious cosmic source of gravity called dark matter to the most famous terrestrial cataclysm of all, the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. She has even written a book about it — Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe.

We only know dark matter exists by inferring that it is real. Analyse the movements of stars and you can work out how much matter is making them swirl and how much makes galaxies clump together — and therefore how much mass makes our universe look the way it does. However, the stars that we can see account for only about one per cent of the mass of the universe. Ghostly neutrino particles contribute, at most, a similar amount. Add planets, gas clouds and other objects and that’s another 10 per cent. But 85 per cent is unaccounted for. That’s dark matter.

Though unseen and unfelt, it affects the expansion of our cosmos, the orbits of stars around the centres of galaxies, and more besides.

To see these cosmic connections between the physics of elementary particles, the majesty of the heavens and the biology of life itself, you need more than the evidence of your own eyes. That’s inadequate, and fallible too, if you know your neuroscience. You need faith in the practice, theories and instruments of modern science. More.

Fair enough but we also need historical awareness. Dark matter could well end up in the same category as ether or phlogiston (reasonable assumptions that didn’t pan out), however much it agrees with the practice, theories and instruments of modern science. The fact that we feel it must exist but haven’t found any after so much search makes that possibility worth keeping in mind.


In science, small, persistent effects cannot be ignored. Sometimes they force a revision of major paradigms. For example, Lord Kelvin remarked in 1900 that there were just “two little dark clouds” on the horizon of Newtonian classical physics of the day, namely, Michelson and Morley’s measurements of the velocity of light and the phenomenon of blackbody radiation. Kelvin was certain that these troubling little clouds would be blown away shortly.149 Yet all of modern physics—relativity and quantum mechanics—derives from these two little dark clouds. (The Spiritual Brain, p. 173)

See also: Arrow of time points to missing dark mater?

Dark matter: Darker and weirder

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Dark Matter assumes an ongoing cosmic expansion. Per The Pearlman SPIRAL there is no ongoing expansion. so no need for there to assume the missing dark energy/matter even exists. Pearlman
The observed behavior of galaxies cannot be accounted for by the amount of visible matter. One explanation is dark matter.
The other much more plausible explanation, in my opinion, is that current theories are wrong. Physicists cannot even explain something as fundamental as inertial motion and yet they feel free to conjure up all sorts of undetectable voodoo entities. And they have the nerve to look down on religion. Go figure. Mapou
@Seversky Another explanation is that there is freedom in the universe, that the universe can turn out several different ways from moment to moment. That is the bleedingly obvious explanation, it is what we have direct evidence of in daily life. Sooner or later the conjectures about things forcing the way things turn out are going to be more and more insane. mohammadnursyamsu
The observed behavior of galaxies cannot be accounted for by the amount of visible matter. One explanation is dark matter. Why should that be a problem? You're quite happy to believe in a dark deity, one that is also invisible, apparently undetectable but exercises enormous influence over the observable universe. What's the difference? Seversky
What makes a particle physicist distinguished?? The dino thing ain't helping. Its just gibberish speculation and they got a job in the stead of someone else and all the money. Robert Byers

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