Saturday, October 24, 2009

Holiday Gift Suggestion: Scintillating Bolometer

Young and budding physicists would be thrilled with a brand new scintillating bolometer this holiday season! Even more desirable than an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!

"That dark matter has never been found is no deterrent to the physicists who are looking for it." That oddly constructed English sentence and head-scratching thought fairly well describes the work of particle scientists today. These physicists tell us an astonishing fact: only around five percent of what makes up the universe can be detected. Thus, they hypothesize the existence of a substance/force/entity named, dark matter- a name that sends chills down the spine of SciFi and Star Wars fans everywhere!

The theory contends that the motion of distant galaxies can only be explained by a gravitational pull caused by more mass than can be seen. Estimates of dark matter are about 20 percent of the universe. Curiously, the remaining 75 percent made up of dark energy, a repulsive force that is causing the universe to expand at an ever-quickening pace. [cue the music from Twilight Zone]

WiredScience says, "At the heart of Abancens’ team’s detector, which is called a scintillating bolometer and resembles a prop from The Golden Compass, is a crystal so pure it can conduct the energy ostensibly generated when a particle of dark matter strikes the nucleus of one of its atoms.

"To prevent interference by cosmic rays, the bolometer is sheathed in lead and kept underground, under half a mile of rock. It’s also frozen to near-absolute zero, the temperature at which all motion stops. At the edge of absolute zero, it’s possible to measure expected changes of a few millionths of a degree Fahrenheit."

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Frequent commenter, Steve, linked an article in ScienceDaily titled, Is Unknown Force In Universe Acting On Dark Matter? This article begins, " An international team of astronomers have found an unexpected link between mysterious 'dark matter' and the visible stars and gas in galaxies that could revolutionise our current understanding of gravity."

It goes on, " "The dark matter seems to 'know' how the visible matter is distributed. They seem to conspire with each other such that the gravity of the visible matter at the characteristic radius of the dark halo is always the same. This is extremely surprising since one would rather expect the balance between visible and dark matter to strongly depend on the individual history of each galaxy."

Dr. Zhao at the SUPA Centre of Gravity notes, "The pattern that the data reveal is extremely odd. It's like finding a zoo of animals of all ages and sizes miraculously having identical, say, weight in their backbones or something. It is possible that a non-gravitational fifth force is ruling the dark matter with an invisible hand, leaving the same fingerprints on all galaxies, irrespective of their ages, shapes and sizes."

Steve wonders if what many refer to as 'God,' might be this 'force and/or balance in the universe. This line from the article is especially God-inducing: "Such a force might solve an even bigger mystery, known as 'dark energy', which is ruling the accelerated expansion of the Universe."

Surely this highly-technical and coldly abstract version of God/god is way-too impersonal and 'humanless' for the 'believers' among us. God needs to have a human face, human emotions, and, most importantly, preside as a punitive human judge- perhaps residing in the state of Texas.

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