July 13, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Will Dark Matter Theorists See the Light?

Some cosmologists are seriously considering
dark matter theory to be a blunder.

 

Will dark matter vanish in the light of evidence and logic? Will it be remembered as a bad dream? If that happens, the change in thinking will be monumental—a story for textbooks on the history of science. Dark Matter theory has ruled cosmology for half a century. What if it was all for naught?

Dark matter: our review suggests it’s time to ditch it in favour of a new theory of gravity (The Conversation, 7 July 2022).

Astrophysicist Indranil Banik at the University of St. Andrews is a proponent of MOND (Modified Newtonian Dynamics), an alternative to dark matter theory held by a minority of cosmologists. First, a little background.

We can model the motions of planets in the Solar System quite accurately using Newton’s laws of physics. But in the early 1970s, scientists noticed that this didn’t work for disc galaxies – stars at their outer edges, far from the gravitational force of all the matter at their centre – were moving much faster than Newton’s theory predicted.

This made physicists propose that an invisible substance called “dark matter” was providing extra gravitational pull, causing the stars to speed up – a theory that’s become hugely popular.

Popularity, however, is not a necessary or sufficient criterion for scientific validity. Banik bases her gentle suggestion to “ditch” dark matter on good old principles of science: a simpler theory that explains the observations should be given preference (Ockham‘s Razor). MOND, she argues, does just that.

NGC 1300, a classic barred spiral galaxy (Hubble Space Telescope).

In a table listing observations, she and her colleagues scored how well dark matter theory and MOND theory performed. Which theory expected the observations? Which theory predicted them? For observations that were not predicted, which theory could still explain the observations with the fewest auxiliary assumptions? MOND scored better than Dark Matter theory. Whether her table was rigged to win is not for us to determine. But she did point out other flaws with Dark Matter theory:

One of the most striking failures of the standard cosmological model relates to “galaxy bars” – rod-shaped bright regions made of stars – that spiral galaxies often have in their central regions…. The bars rotate over time. If galaxies were embedded in massive halos of dark matter, their bars would slow down. However, most, if not all, observed galaxy bars are fast. This falsifies the standard cosmological model with very high confidence.

Another problem is that the original models that suggested galaxies have dark matter halos made a big mistake – they assumed that the dark matter particles provided gravity to the matter around it, but were not affected by the gravitational pull of the normal matter. This simplified the calculations, but it doesn’t reflect reality. When this was taken into account in subsequent simulations it was clear that dark matter halos around galaxies do not reliably explain their properties.

Dr Banik’s article prompted dozens of lively comments, some for and against. She responded to the critical ones in detail with civility and confidence. But until MOND wins over a majority, the search for dark matter continues.

Shining a light on dark matter one particle at a time (University of Adelaide, 8 July 2022).

This article makes no mention of MOND, even though it admits that dark matter is something they “know little about.” But the language in the article treats dark matter as a fact. It makes up 84% of the universe, the article states at the top. But does the number give a false veneer of scientific rigor, when the theory’s proponents admit they are clueless about what it is? How do they know it is a particle?

Photograph of dark matter. White background provided for contrast.

“We are trying to solve the problem of understanding one of the grand challenges facing modern science – how to find what type of particle dark matter is composed of,” said Professor Anthony Thomas, Elder Professor of Physics, University of Adelaide.

Dark matter is five times more plentiful than visible matter that physicists have explored so successfully and of which we are composed.

We do not know what kind of particle makes up dark matter but we, along with a very large number of people around the world, want to understand this.”

Wanting to understand something for which there is no evidence requires openness to alternative theories.

Shedding New Light on Dark Matter (New York University, 6 July 2022).

Like the previous article, this press release invokes the “shedding light” meme. The irony seems lost on them that when you shed light, darkness vanishes like a dream in the light of awareness of reality.

A team of physicists has developed a method for predicting the composition of dark matter—invisible matter detected only by its gravitational pull on ordinary matter and whose discovery has been long sought by scientists.

The simple models haven’t worked, they say, so now they have to add complexity to find the “mysterious type of matter” that critics contend is not matter at all because it doesn’t exist.

One of the issues that makes Dark Matter theory contentious is that it is not just about motions of galaxies. It is intricately embedded in favored models of Big Bang theory. But no dark matter is needed if the universe is young and was created (ICR). Dark matter is a deduction from the big bang, not a confirmation of it. It’s a requirement to hold the theory together. Scientific materialists need it to get matter to emerge out of nothing.

In the research, conducted with Hongwan Liu, an NYU postdoctoral fellow, Joshua Ruderman, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Physics, and Princeton physicist Mariangela Lisanti, Giovanetti and her co-authors focused on big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN)—a process by which light forms of matter, such as helium, hydrogen, and lithium, are created. The presence of invisible dark matter affects how each of these elements will form. Also vital to these phenomena is the cosmic microwave background (CMB)—electromagnetic radiation, generated by combining electrons and protons, that remained after the universe’s formation.

What happens to the favored Big Bang theory if dark matter is ditched in favor of MOND? What happens to the Standard Model of particle physics if no dark matter particle shows up? How long do they get to keep searching before it becomes ridiculous? The implications of ditching dark matter are profound. Perhaps worries about those are what motivate the consensus to keep looking.

Resource: for background on dark matter theory, and why scientists look so hard for it, see this YouTube video by Veritasium, “The absurd search for dark matter” (June 2, 2022).

We’ve been following the dark matter hunt for over 20 years. Here’s what keeps happening: expensive detectors are built, but each new search comes up empty (latest example going on now in South Dakota at a cost of $60 million). Cosmologists give the mysterious unknown stuff (MUST) clever names, like MACHOs (massive compact halo objects), WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles), and axions (theoretical entities). Detectors are made for each category. The engineers assure everyone that they will find the particles if they are there. They’re getting warmer, they promise. Each new experiment “constrains” the area where it must be, meaning that “if dark matter is found, it will not be outside this circle.” The circle shrinks but no dark matter turns up. How long can they keep this going?

If Dark Matter theory is ever abandoned, philosophers and historians of science should make the occasion a big deal. They should elevate the story to a textbook example of groupthink that was assumed as true without proof. The world’s greatest cosmologists invented an occult object with no basis in direct observation, but assured the world that it represented 84% of reality! Dark matter captivated the majority of leading experts for decades. They spent millions and millions of dollars on huge detectors (someone should add up the numbers). They believed it on hope, against all evidence. Their favorite theories drove them to all this. The science news media played along and wrote up the search in glowing reports, treating dark matter like a fact of nature. But like a snipe hunt, it turned out to be a big hoax.

Inquiring minds want to know what other examples of fake science are operating today? Climate change? Darwinism?

There are some who will argue, ‘This is just how science works. Theories are tested and falsified, and science learns and makes progress.’ But ask yourself, from your experience, if you can call it progress on a road trip when you take a wrong turn and have to backtrack 100 miles. Yes, you may have learned something, but wouldn’t it have been better not to believe your intuitions in the first place? You wasted a lot of time and gas. It’s even more egregious when you wasted the customer’s money (i.e., the taxpayers who funded the detour). If you can’t justify the detour on more than your hunch about a favored theory, you just bilked the public out of a lot of money they could have used on more productive things that affect their lives.

Cosmologists had better find this mysterious unknown stuff soon, or they deserve to face a lot of angry taxpayers. Maybe it would be better for them to exercise a little humility, admit wrong, and get back to observing the light. If you wish to continue the search, fine. But BYOM. (Bring your own money) and don’t do it on company time. Scientists need to remember they work for the public. Their product is truth based on evidence—not decades-long wild goose chases.

 

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Comments

  • tjguy says:

    “The implications of ditching dark matter are profound. Perhaps worries about those are what motivate the consensus to keep looking.”

    It seems like this is a pattern in science. Hold on to your failing ideas until you have something “better” or “new” to replace it and THEN all of a sudden, jump on the bandwagon and pooh pooh your original idea. THEN you can say that over the past 10-20 years, scientists have been growing skeptical and uncomfortable with the “theory”.

    It makes it sound so much better that way when you have something to replace it with. Regardless of whether the new thing is true or not, it gives you a new direction/idea to research and helps people keep the faith!

    This is not science, but rather their biased effort to keep their worldview from being falsified.

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