Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dark Science

      The theory that light consists of waves was proposed as early as the last half of the 17th century, and was almost universally accepted until the late 19th century. However, the theory did pose a significant problem.
      It was thought that waves always were propagated through some kind of medium. For example, water waves needed water to spread and sound waves needed air. But how could light waves propagate through empty space? How did light from the sun travel through the vacuum of space to arrive on earth?
      So scientists came up with the idea of the “luminiferous aether,” an invisible medium which pervaded space. This idea held sway until 1887, when Albert Michelson and Edward Morley performed their ground-breaking experiment which proved that the luminiferous aether did not exist. Although in some experiments light appeared to be a wave, it did not require a propagating medium.
      In the waning years of the 20th century, mother nature presented a similar conundrum. Based upon the effect of gravity upon matter, cosmologists have calculated the total mass/energy of the universe. However, other observations suggest that visible matter, galaxies, gas, dust, etc., accounts for between 4% and 5% of the total. It is as if you put sugar on the scales for a total of 10 pounds, but when you weigh it by the ounce, you have only eight ounces!
      Shades of the 19th century – scientists are speculating that the difference is due to “dark” matter and energy. It is invisible just as was the luminiferous aether! Imagine 8-1/2 pounds of invisible sugar on your scales!
      Which brings me to the Large Hadron Collider: a huge tunnel 17 miles in circumference and almost 600 feet beneath the border between France and Switzerland. Among other things, scientists hope that this 16 billion dollar experiment will do for dark matter what the Michelson-Morley experiment did in 1887: prove or disprove its existence.
      Invisible luminiferous aether/invisible dark matter. History repeats itself. Stay tuned.
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      Similar to the invisible change in individuals, there is a continuous change in the unseen culture which lies beneath each society. New fads, morals, systems, governments, commerce, architecture, etc. come and go. In the early 1700s most colonists believed in the divine right of kings to govern; today’s Americans believe in democracy and individual freedom. In the 21st century medical science is far more popular as a cure for illness than the blood-letting of the 18th century. Some cultures believed that a certain dance would cause rain to fall; others believed that human sacrifice would relieve drought.
      Foreword – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      To read more excerpts from the book, click here.

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