As we said yesterday, science cannot detect 68.3% of the energy in the cosmos, but we know it is there because of its effect on the galaxies. Also, today’s scientists cannot detect 26.8% of the mass in the universe, but they know it is there because of gravity. They call it “dark matter.” To make their theories work, scientists now say that there must be a bizarre form of matter that does not affect or interact with light, visible or invisible, in any way. They call this hypothetical particle which cannot be seen or detected, “the axion.” The axion would explain dark matter, but the big question is how can we detect it?
As science attempts to understand the nature of the world we live in, it becomes evident that the creation is not just the physical world that our senses can detect. Seeing, smelling, hearing, feeling, and tasting are wonderful, but they are just physical manifestations of something far more significant.
For Christians, this is not the mystery that it might be to an atheist. Hebrews 11:3 says it well: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” My physics studies have convinced me that the world we can see is just a snippet of the total creation.
We are beginning to understand that there are many dimensions beyond what our senses perceive. Even when we extend our senses with machines, we still cannot detect the axion. The wonder of creation simply brings us back to the Psalmist’s song: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). The cry of wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-23 reminds us of our limitations: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way before His works of old I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or before the Earth existed.”
Remember that “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). Science is a friend of faith, and God has given us a limited view of what He has done. The full scope of creation is beyond our comprehension, but science helps fill in some gaps in our understanding. Perhaps someday science will find the axion.
“500 + amazing facts you need to know about galaxies, black holes, Einstein’s Relativity, the Big Bang, Dark Matter, and more!” Those are the words on the cover of Astronomy magazine’s special issue titled “Cosmos – Origin and Fate of the Universe.” The magazine has a great listing of discoveries made in the last decade, and it’s full of photographs, artwork, and a variety of charts. David Eicher, the magazine editor, opens the issue by quoting Carl Sagan’s famous line, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” That is Sagan’s religious view, and Eicher plugs it by ending with, “We pack it all in here, and hope you will enjoy reading, and thinking about all that ever was, or ever will be.”
The magazine’s factual matter is impressive, but the philosophical and religious beliefs raise far more questions than they answer. The size of the cosmos has been a subject of intense study. Research shows that the number of galaxies in the cosmos is at least two-trillion –10 times greater than was previously thought. That amount of mass in the cosmos means that any explanation of how the creation happened is outside of current scientific understanding. It is becoming increasingly clear that only 4.9% of the universe is made of ordinary matter. The rest is mysterious dark matter (26.8%) and dark energy (68.3%).
The magazine presents the current scientific theory of the creation process with a “puffy giant dark star” made of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPS). These WIMPS collided, annihilating each other and producing a halo of dark matter and black holes. This inadequate explanation makes it clear that the universe did not come into existence on its own. There was a beginning, and that beginning was caused. The cosmos is not self-existing. Those of us who believe in God would suggest that if these theories are correct, they are just God’s tools for creation. They may explain the methods He used, but it is clear that the cosmos we see is not all that is or ever was or ever will be.
This current scientific explanation of creation has implications for other scientific fields. For example, evolution depends on a religious belief called uniformitarianism, which says that no process has operated in the past that is not going on today. Much of what the magazine discusses is not going on today.
Two things are certain from this issue of Astronomy. We know little about the creation, and we deal poorly with what we do know. It’s evident that the cosmos is not all that is or ever was or ever will be. We suggest that a periodical like this one shouts again, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalms 19:1).
Those of us who are interested in the subject of creation have been excited about some new data which will help us understand the cosmos. Apparently God has built into the creation various devices to help us more clearly see what He has created. Among those devices are fast radio bursts (FRBs).
When high mass stars draw in matter, they emit various frequencies of radio waves. Neutron stars and black holes release radio waves in a wide range of different energies. High energy waves travel through space without being affected a great deal by anything. Lower energy radio waves are affected by whatever material they pass through. Recent research has shown that in interstellar space there are variations in the actual speed of radio waves coming from a common source, depending on how much intergalactic material the waves are going through.
The material that slows the radiation is the ordinary particles called baryons, including protons and neutrons. We now know that interstellar space is full of the matter that makes up our galaxy, but at a very low density. These microscopic baryons do not emit light so we have not been able to detect their presence in the past. Fast radio bursts can make it possible for us to observe them because of the effect they have on the speed of the radiation.
Astronomers know from observing the light that was emitted when the universe was young that baryons should be the source of five percent of all the mass and energy in the cosmos. If that was true at the beginning, it should also be true today. However, the stars and gas we can see only account for half of that amount. The baryons are not uniform or isotropic in their distribution, but rather exist as filaments making a sort of web of low density matter which can be measured using FRBs. Astronomers are optimistic that this discovery will account for the “missing mass” in the creation. (This is the missing mass of regular matter, not dark matter, which is still a mystery.)
When the Bible challenges us to “know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20), it implies that this process is ongoing. In the 21st century we are blessed with new and better tools to see what God has made. Like the microscope, fast radio bursts open whole new vistas for us so that we can see and understand more of the handiwork of God.
One of the things that frequently happens when scientists admit they don’t understand something is that pseudoscience and pseudo-religion crackpots go wild with completely impossible claims. The UFO craze is an example. Many people attributed poorly understood natural phenomena to alien visitation. Virtually all UFO claims have been answered and shown to be natural phenomena or manufactured hoaxes. A more difficult question involves understanding dark matter.
Dark matter and dark energy pose a huge challenge to cosmologists and astronomers. Galaxies are spinning masses of billions of stars orbiting a core, which at least most of the time is a black hole. The problem is that the spin of the system is so rapid that the force of gravity is not enough to keep galaxies from flying apart. Scientists believe that there is undetectable mass in the galactic systems to hold them together. They call that missing mass “dark matter.”
There is a similar problem in the motion of galaxies through space. Various experiments have shown clearly that the cosmos is being accelerated at between 72 and 76 (Km/s)/Mpc. The acceleration of the cosmos involves energy far greater than anything science has seen in any thermonuclear reaction to date. If we view the cosmos as embedded in spacetime, then some energy is accelerating spacetime, but we cannot detect what that energy is or how it is generated.
In past centuries and many cultures, this would have been explained by simply saying,” God is doing (or has done) it.” We call that “God of the Gaps.” Atheists quickly point out that when science finds an explanation, that “God of the Gaps” is dead. Our studies of quarks, hadrons, WIMPS, and relativity are offering suggestions that may eventually give an understanding to fill the gap. Understanding dark matter is not a small gap because dark matter makes up 26.8% of the universe, and dark energy makes up 68.3%. That means that the matter we can detect makes up only 4.9% of the universe’s total composition.
There are some critical lessons in this. We need to realize that creating the cosmos is not a simple matter. Just creating space, time, and the substance to make the cosmos is a highly complex process. However, the process is not God. God has used His massive intelligence and design to produce something we are just now beginning to appreciate. When science finds a way of understanding dark matter and dark energy, it will only tell us more about God’s wisdom, power, and intelligence. We are beginning to understand the meaning of Proverbs 8, where wisdom speaks.
As we have explained before, scientists understand that a vast percentage of the matter in the creation is something they call dark matter. The simplest way to understand dark matter is to realize that when something is spinning around a core, there must be a force to keep the spinning mass from flying away because of centrifugal force. The dark matter mystery is the unknown quantity preventing spiral galaxies like the Milky Way from flying apart.
If you spin a child around so fast that their feet come off the ground, you must hold their hands tightly. If you let go, they would fly off away from you. Stars going around the center of a galaxy also have to be held by some force. The stars move so quickly that no known force could keep them where they are. That means there is a gravitational force we can’t see holding the stars in their position. We refer to the mass that exerts that gravitational force as dark matter.
Astrophysicist Peter van Dokkum of Yale University has announced the discovery of a galaxy known as DF2, which has stars and star clusters moving at a very slow pace around the core of the galaxy. In all other galaxies having stars at the same distance as stars in DF2, the stars are moving three times as fast as the stars in DF2. That can only mean that there is less dark matter in DF2.
This discovery increases the dark matter mystery because it appears that dark matter is not constant in the cosmos. The amount of dark matter in a galaxy depends on what is needed to keep everything moving at a speed that produces stability in the galactic system. There is a great deal of debate about this discovery, but it appears that the design of galaxies has a new variable that is critical to their existence. That critical factor is how much dark matter has been supplied to keep the system stable. God has tools affecting the creation that we are just beginning to understand. The role of dark matter is only one of those.
The complexity of the creation of time, space, and matter/energy is so enormous that for decades, scientists have tried without success to understand what holds everything together. When we measure the speed of the matter spinning around the core of the galaxy, that speed is so great that there is no way the galaxy could exist without flying apart. It is like trying to hold a car on the road when it is going too fast around a curve. The speed of the matter in galaxies is hundreds of times greater than what should be possible. This has led scientists to believe there is something they call dark matter within the galaxy. It is the “glue” that holds the spinning galaxy together. The problem is, what is the nature of that “glue”?
The main proposal for years has been something called WIMPS, which stands for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. A newer candidate is Macroscopic Dark Matter or Macros. These Macros would be made of subatomic particles called quarks but combined in a way never before observed. They would be distributed throughout space and thus would be continually bombarding the Earth. There is an interesting problem with this proposal. For these particles to account for the gravitational mass of dark matter, they would have to be large enough to damage ordinary matter. Clearly, there is no evidence that mysterious deaths are taking place due to Macro bombardment.
Dark matter is the glue that holds our universe together. We have discussed a variety of ways that dark matter is critical to the existence of our solar system and of galaxies in general. We have also reported on unsuccessful experiments to try to find that mysterious dark matter. We have discussed the concept of WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and the idea of attempting to see dark matter by smashing protons together. Now scientists think there may be a connection between dark matter and black holes.
A new study reported in Scientific American (July 2017, page 39-) reports that primordial black holes are now appearing to be the cause of dark matter. The computer model shows that when the creation process usually called “the big bang” took place, seeds of primordial black holes were produced. Those black holes could cause all of the phenomena that we observe and attribute to dark matter. This would be a much simpler cause of the dark matter than previous models would indicate. Dark matter would be a bi-product of the creation process.
From an apologetic standpoint, this is very interesting. God’s power is so great that when He applied that power in the creation process, massive numbers of primordial black holes were produced. If this hypothesis is correct, it tells us something of the power of God and explains the structure we see in the cosmos. It will be interesting to see if future research will confirm or deny this new observation.
At a June 7 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Benjamin Hoscheit presented information gained from studying 120,000 galaxies. The study agreed with earlier findings that our Milky Way galaxy is located in the largest cosmic void that we can observe. When scientists look one billion light-years out into the universe, they find that the cosmic density becomes much greater. The conclusion they have reached is that the Milky Way is in a relatively open area of space about two billion light-years across. We live in a quiet neighborhood.
The computer image from the Millennium Simulation Project illustrates the dense filaments of dark matter stretching through space. Galaxies are mostly clumped along the filaments. The Milky Way resides in one of the voids between those strands. What are the implications of that? Galaxies tend to be in clusters, and our cluster is called the Local Group. A typical galaxy cluster will have 10,000 galaxies close together. (Close by cosmic standards.) The Local Group has only forty galaxies, and all of them are dwarf galaxies except the Milky Way and Andromeda which are medium-sized. If there were large galaxies close to us, their gravity could distort the spiral structure of the Milky Way making advanced life on Earth impossible.
The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy—the only kind of galaxy capable of supporting advanced life. Star formation drives the spiral motion. Star formation requires the infusion of gas and dust which the small galaxies provide. Clusters of galaxies reside inside superclusters. Our Local Group cluster is on the outer fringe of the Virgo supercluster. If it were near the center of Virgo, the massive clusters there would absorb the Local Group and make life impossible.
Also, our solar system is located in the best position within our galaxy at about two-thirds of the distance from the center. In the center of the Milky Way (and most galaxies), there is a massive black hole that would swallow our solar system if we were anywhere near it. If we were farther out in the spiral, the solar system would be subject to massive instability, again making life impossible.
Of course, Earth is also located in the solar habitable zone where we are not too close or too far from the Sun. One final thing to note is that in this cosmic void and the position in our galaxy, we are at the optimum location for observing all of the things I mentioned. We have an excellent view of the universe. We are in more than a quiet neighborhood. We are in the “Goldilocks Zone” where everything is “just right.”
One of the most interesting areas of scientific research today is the study of dark matter. We have known for more than half a century that galaxies are groups of billions of stars revolving around a core. Science had assumed that the glue holding galaxies together was the gravitational force produced by the mass of the stars in the galaxy. The problem with this explanation was that the stars were spiraling too fast for the gravity produced by their mass to hold the galaxy together.
If you stand in the center of a circle and spin a bucket of water on a rope, you have to spin it at a certain speed to keep the water in the bucket. If you go too slow, the bucket will hit the ground, and if you go too fast, it will break the rope. In the case of galaxies, the stars were going so fast for the gravity of the stars to hold the system together. Some other gravitational force must be the glue doing the job. The discovery of black holes in the center of galaxies was thought to be a possible answer, but the speed was much too fast for even that source. The amount of mass it would take to hold some of the galaxies together is as much as 85% higher than what we can observe.
This problem led to the proposal that there is a missing mass. Scientists suggested particles called WIMPS, which is an acronym for “weakly interacting massive particles.” For some time now, experiments have been conducted to find evidence for WIMPS. The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, has been smashing protons together in hopes of detecting the particle. The Large Underground Xenon experiment in South Dakota has been looking for traces of them as well. So far neither attempt has been successful. In an article in Scientific American (October 2016, page 16) Edward Kolb, who was involved in proposing the existence of WIMPS, said: “We are more in the dark about dark matter than we were five years ago.” David Spergel who is an astrophysicist at Princeton says, “…we now need more hints from nature about where to go next.”
It seems that God has already taught us quite a bit about the complexity of creation. Thanks to Isaac Newton we know that mass has a connection to gravity. Thanks to Albert Einstein we know that the shape of space has something to do with it as well. Making a galaxy is not a simple task. Just like the making of electric charge, the process involves understandings that science is just beginning to comprehend. Quantum mechanics has taught us that a whole new set of laws governs what happens in forming these building blocks of what we see.