September 17, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Dark Matter Sheds Light on Invisible Stars: Come Again?

Can one unknown shed light on another unknown?  That’s what some UK astronomers seem to be saying.  Before describing their model, consider this conundrum with which they ended a story in the BBC News:

“We don’t know what the dark matter is, we don’t know what the first stars are.  If we bring these two problems together, when we know more about one, then we can say something about the other.”

But if they don’t know what either is, and they see something, how could they know they are seeing it, and how could it say it says something about something else they don’t see?
    This strange state of affairs comes not from observations, but from computer models.  Liang Gao and Tom Theuns from Durham University told the BBC News that their models allow them to predict the properties of a substance they freely admitted, “they cannot say what it is.”  Yet they were confident enough of their model, that once they had selected certain starting conditions that seemed reasonable to them, they claimed they could propose that the first stars must have formed in long, thin filaments.  No such filaments have been found.  But now, they believe they know what to look for.

OK, let’s play a similar game in a parallel universe, just for fun.  I posit that there are fairies who use pixie dust.  I don’t have any clues what fairies are, or what they look like, but according to the common mythology, they use pixie dust, of which I also have no clues.  I made up a computer game where I gave pixie dust certain properties of granularity, temperature and viscosity.  If I find invisible dust with these properties, it should be able to tell me something about fairies.
    Gentlemen, come back to the science lab when you have some observations.  What?  You need funding first?  All right, all right.  Here’s some imaginary money.

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Categories: Astronomy, Cosmology, Physics

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