Reasons to Believe

The Hunt for Dark Matter

This topic was suggested via the Take Two Facebook fan page by Dr. Nick Tavani of the RTB Washington DC chapter. If you have ideas for Take Two articles, just contact us via Facebook!
 
Mysterious and elusive, dark matter is for astronomers and cosmologists what the White Rabbit is for Alice. It’s described as a “hypothetical form of matter...whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter.” In other words, scientists know dark matter exists because they can observe its impact on its celestial surroundings—but they have yet to directly detect it.
 
The hunt for dark matter has been on ever since observations by astronomer Fritz Zwicky first suggested the existence of a “non-luminous substance” in 1934. Subsequent observations have confirmed Zwicky’s discovery, but direct detection remains unattainable. It’s kinda like searching for an ingredient in a big and unfamiliar supermarket—you know the item you seek is in the store, yet you just can’t seem to locate it. As RTB astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink puts it, dark matter “has proven remarkably difficult to study since it emits no detectable electromagnetic radiation—no radio waves, no visible light, no x-rays, etc.”
 
So why bother expending time and energy looking for something so slippery? Two reasons: (1) dark matter comprises around 22% of the stuff in the universe; and (2) it plays a major role in big bang creation models.
 
 
"[Bear] in mind that big bang cosmology echoes the biblical description of the universe, in which the cosmos continually expands after the creation event. However, scientific discoveries demonstrate that the initially smooth, homogeneous early universe could not have produced the galaxies and clusters of galaxies seen today without a fine-tuned amount of dark matter."
 
In other words, evidence for the existence of dark matter buttresses the case for a 13.7 billion-year-old universe designed by a Creator. And direct detection may not be all that far away. Jeff reports in a Today’s New Reason to Believe article that recent experiments using an underground laboratory in Minnesota may have edged scientists closer to direct detection of dark matter.
 
So the hunt for dark matter continues. Hopefully this elusive substance is just on the next aisle over.
 
-- Maureen
 
Resources: Jeff, along with RTB physicist Dave Rogstad and astronomer Hugh Ross, has written quite a few articles documenting the search for dark matter. Check them out here:
 
Jeff:
Dave:
Hugh:

 

Subjects: Universe Design