Dark Matter Mostly Socks, Keys, Ballpoints
Cambridge, August 12, 2024 -- A critical goal that has eluded astrophysicists for decades has at last been made possible: the discovery of the nature and composition of "dark matter" as well as a hint as to the function of "dark energy", two previously unidentifiable and unobservable substances that together comprise nearly 95% of all matter in the universe.
Thanks to recent advances in technology it has now been definitively proven that dark matter consists mostly of the subatomic remains of "missing ballpoints, socks and keys", according to a cosmologist involved in the discovery, thus effectively solving several great mysteries of the universe in one go.
"This is probably the most important development in astrophysics since the existence of dark matter was originally predicted by Fritz Zwicky in 1933," Helmut Shoo, an astrophysicist with Harvard University's Chandra X-Ray Observatory, said.
The difficulty that had previously stymied efforts to identify dark matter's composition is the fact that the only means by which the substance is known to interact with traditional, visible matter is through its gravitational force. Beyond that, dark matter simply passes through visible matter as though it wasn't there. Its vague name is due to the fact that scientists originally could predict and observe its existence only indirectly by measuring the gravitational influence of dark matter on very large structures such as galactic clusters, but had no idea what it actually was.
Nearly two decades ago, in August, 2006, dark matter was "photographed" for the first time using a combination of optical and x-ray telescopes including the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory's Very Extremely Big and Mighty Telescope, and the Magellan optical telescopes. The existence of dark matter was conclusively demonstrated by photographing, in conjunction with visible matter, the optical distortion of distant galaxies caused by the "gravitational lensing" effect of dark matter following the collision of two major galaxies in galaxy cluster 1E0657-56, also known as the Bullet Cluster.
"But while that was a major milestone, it still gave us no clue as to what dark matter actually is," Dr. Shoo said. "That we couldn't determine until the invention of the dark matter subatomic clocktrometer early last year by my Scottish colleague E. McSquaird."
Dr. McSquaird, a cosmologist at the University of Glasgow, had postulated as early as 2009 that the only means by which one could physically analyze dark matter would be by using a device itself constructed of the substance, due to the fact that dark matter particles, like high school cliques, interact only with themselves and nothing else.
"I dinnae want to be ba'heidit," Dr. McSquaird said, "but I'll tell ye it were nigh impossible to capture dark matter, a boggin substance that passes right through all known and measurable particles, een a wee sieve. Then I were to form it into a measuring device and construct an interface between that device and the five percent o' the universe we can actually observe and interact with. I cannae tell ye how I did it, since me patent still be pending, but I can tell ye it took more'n 12 weeks to put ta wee ting together in my bertie-auld garage, during which I missed me bonnie bairn's birthday and a right spate o' bellywashers, to me great regret. But when we turned it oan, crivens, what we rummelled."
Earlier, now disproven hypotheses as to the structure of dark matter had suggested it may be composed of particles such as the neutralino or the axion, or various groupings whimsically known in astrophysicist parlance as WIMPs and MACHOs. In light of the latest discovery, Dr. Shoo has proposed instead that the new particle be termed the oublion, from the French for "Can I get ketchup with that?".
"Most dark matter particles," Dr. Shoo explained, "as observed in the dark matter subatomic clocktrometer are in fact the minute remains of commonly misplaced household items such as socks, keys, ballpoint pens, remote controls and cell phones. If you've been wondering where these keep creeping off to, now you know."
Prior to Drs. Shoo and McSquaird's discovery, the common disappearance of such items was attributed to carelessness, memory lapses and other human traits. Now, however, it appears cosmological forces are actually at work, continually strengthening and rebuilding the fundamental building blocks of the universe while exasperating harried householders by converting wayward latchkeys into dark matter oublions.
"The next step," Dr. Shoo said, "will be to determine the mechanism by which presumptively misplaced items are converted into dark matter. We believe, but cannot yet prove, that dark energy may have a role to play."
Dark energy, another substance that is only indirectly observable but which nonetheless is thought to comprise about 70% of all matter in the universe, was long believed by many prominent cosmologists to be the scattered remains of the Creator of the Universe, who is assumed to have perished in the cosmic conflagration known as the Big Bang.
"That may be so," Dr. Shoo said, "but there's really no way to prove it one way or the other until religion gets some scientific instruments, and I don't plan to hold my breath waiting for that to happen."
"What we do suspect is that dark energy, which pervades every nook and cranny of the universe in varying quantities, may in fact be the missing link between your lost sock and dark matter oublions."
Dr. Shoo said the research team's next step will be to place a collection of oublion candidates – a sock, a set of house keys, and a television remote control – in "an isolated environment, such as a sturdy box", then watch and wait for dark energy to make its move.
"We're not sure what kind of time frame it acts in or what catalyst triggers the dark energy conversion of keys to oublions," Dr. Shoo said, "but I, for one, plan to keep mine in my pocket."
By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor
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