Yesterday the international team running the cosmic ray detector Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer announced that they may have found evidence of dark matter. Dark matter is the force that pulls galaxies together and though dark matter composes over a quarter of the universe’s mass-energy balance, it has never been directly observed. AMS’ new findings could lead to answering some of the many unanswered questions for modern science.
Jeremiah Ostriker, professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, and Simon Mitton, affiliated research scholar in the history and philosophy of science at St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, explain the importance of dark matter and the history behind the search for it in their book Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe. AMS’ research comes only a week after the Planck Satellite Mission’s discovery that there is more dark matter than scientists had previously figured.
Scientists are hopeful that the evidence is able to come to some type of conclusion about dark matter though the “hint of dark matter” that AMS found could possibly be pulsars sending particles into the universe rather than decaying dark matter. Scientists are still analyzing the data to determine if what they have found is definitely dark matter but it could be some time until they know for certain. Still, scientists are closer than they ever have been to finding the answer to the question of dark matter. Though this development and last week’s Planck findings certainly shed light on the search and understanding of dark matter, the story of dark matter is still far from over.
Heart of Darkness describes the incredible saga of humankind’s quest to unravel the deepest secrets of the universe. Over the past thirty years, scientists have learned that two little-understood components–dark matter and dark energy–comprise most of the known cosmos, explain the growth of all cosmic structure, and hold the key to the universe’s fate. The story of how evidence for the so-called “Lambda-Cold Dark Matter” model of cosmology has been gathered by generations of scientists throughout the world is told here by one of the pioneers of the field, Jeremiah Ostriker, and his coauthor Simon Mitton.
From humankind’s early attempts to comprehend Earth’s place in the solar system, to astronomers’ exploration of the Milky Way galaxy and the realm of the nebulae beyond, to the detection of the primordial fluctuations of energy from which all subsequent structure developed, this book explains the physics and the history of how the current model of our universe arose and has passed every test hurled at it by the skeptics. Throughout this rich story, an essential theme is emphasized: how three aspects of rational inquiry–the application of direct measurement and observation, the introduction of mathematical modeling, and the requirement that hypotheses should be testable and verifiable–guide scientific progress and underpin our modern cosmological paradigm.