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Show Me the Matter

Like every other normal person you've been popping champagne to celebrate the big news about Dark Matter. But there's a lingering question that hasn't gone away: What is it?

Neutrinos? Higgs bosons? Positrons? Ring-dings? High-fructose corn syrup?

Or is it just made of ... schmutz???

I'm with Stacy McGaugh, who tells our Marc Kaufman that nailing down Dark Matter particles would require "grabbing them in the laboratory." Because otherwise there will remain this suspicion that they're dark because they're not actually there.

From the AP:
"Some physicists have even proposed that it isn't the amount and type of matter in the universe that needs to be adjusted, it's the law of gravity itself. They have suggested alternative theories that boost the strength of gravity on galactic and intergalactic scales in order to do away with the need for dark matter."

You know about the Pioneer 10 anomaly. It is slowing down unexpectedly as it zooms through the exurbs of the solar system. And other spacecraft don't quite stick to the equations when they get a gravity boost form planets. The evidence of dark matter has always been indirect, based on a certain fixed assumption about gravity.

Which, um, no one actually understands at the quantum level. And no one can explain what "Dark Energy" is, even though it makes up something like 75 percent of the energy budget of the universe, and, as Kaufman reports, "fills empty space with a force that appears to negate gravity and push the universe to expand ever faster." [This sounds more intelligent if you wave your arms dramatically while saying it.]

So there are still some unknowns out there. Like, what is the universe made of, fundamentally? Is there a Multiverse in which our universe is a pathetic little bubble?

And the biggee: Why is there something rather than nothing? (When that gets solved I promise I'll turn it into a blog item.)

[Click here for boodler bc's take on Dark Matter.]

[Of course you saw Weingarten's great review of Mr. Tony. Much needed comic relief after last week. And fyi -- I thought Tony did a great job grilling Jerry Jones late in the game last night. Maybe a journalist in the booth isn't such a bad idea.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  August 22, 2006; 10:39 AM ET
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