Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Difference Between Ghosts And Dark Matter

A rather interesting piece that I stumbled upon on the NPR website. The author is trying to explain why, since both ghosts and dark matter can't be "seen", why wouldn't scientists believe in ghosts while a large percentage of physicists believe in the existence of dark matter.

So how do physicists and astronomers get away with claiming the existence of cosmic ghosts (dark matter and dark energy) when they would probably roll their eyes at descriptions of the more terrestrial haunted-house kind?

The answer is data, its prevalence and its stability.

There are literally thousands of studies now of those rotating-too-fast galaxies out there — and they all get the same, quite noticeable result. In other words, data for the existence of dark matter is prevalent. It's not like you see the effect once in a while but then it disappears. The magnitude of the result — meaning its strength — also stays pretty consistent from one study to the next. The same holds true for studies of dark energy.
We need to make something VERY CLEAR here, especially for non-scientists. While we do not know exactly what this dark matter is made of, or we don't know what it is, we have already a very clear set of parameters of its CHARACTERISTICS. Based on what we have already observed and measured, there are QUANTITATIVE properties of these so-called dark matter.

This is important because of two reasons: (i) there are no such definitive behavior, characteristics, and quantitative description of "ghosts", and (ii) these quantitative properties allow us to make measurements and rule out unsuitable candidates that to not fit into what we already know.

This article is similar to the public science event that I attended several years ago in which Dan Hooper of Fermilab/UofC described the science of ghosts. Back then, he too included the possibility on whether ghosts can be made up of dark matter, and based on what we know about dark matter and what people have described what ghosts can do, he concluded that ghosts cannot be made up of dark matter.

So no. Ghosts and Dark Matter are not in the same league.


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