Friday, January 29, 2010

His Dark Materials

The Times ran a piece about the search for dark matter (NYT, 12/18/09), the mysterious element that scientists believe may constitute the building blocks of the universe. Producing temperatures of one hundredth of a degree Kelvin—near absolute zero—at the bottom of an abandoned copper mine in Minnesota, a team of scientists that identifies itself as the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search have come tantalizingly close to identifying the residues of the kinds of energy they are looking for. Of course, readers of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Milton’s Paradise Lost, upon which Pullman’s enormously popular trilogy is based, will be heartened by research that reveals the scientific underpinnings for what previously seemed to be mere poetic conjecture.
These revelations come not through looking into a telescope, but in effect from creating an environment devoid of cosmic radiation, which can obfuscate the detections of this dark Miltonian world. And what is both compelling and disturbing about the findings is the fact that the universe is expanding.  According to the Times piece, dark matter could constitute the missing piece of a puzzle that includes 4% atoms and 70% dark energy, which, the Times explained, has nothing to do with dark matter, which itself would account for the rest. What the future holds is not the prospect of overcrowding, but of tremendous isolation. If our search for life forms—another recent Times story described the discovery of a sultry, water-covered planet orbiting a distant star—is frustrated by the enormous distances involved in intergalactic travel, it will only get worse in eons to come.  But one thing is for sure: we are unlikely to be plagued by turf wars. By the time one settler is ready to homestead on  a far-off rancher’s lands, the rancher will be long dead.


  1. SETI

    Some aim telescopes
    to grab non-randomness.

    Even if star travel
    is relativistically
    next to impossible.

    Though some propose
    n-spaces, warps, holes
    to the heretofore remote.

    Like those of Earth
    trapped in this trope?

  2. I'm reading a book now called Computing the Universe, which is basically a computational information-based theory of physics. It's also all about zooming in instead of looking out, and very interesting.

    And as Copenhagen is being blanketed in a beautiful layer of snow (everyone here talks about how the snow makes the city brighter in the winter), it puts one into quite the contemplative mood.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.