Last night, I read an article on dark matter and energy by Richard Panek that appeared in the March 11 issue of the New York Times magazine. (Magazine backlog over here.) The article was great, and there are a few tidbits from it that I’d like to share with you:

The ideas of dark matter and energy are basically placeholders to address inconsistencies in the current theories of physics. If dark matter does in fact exist, it is what makes up 96 percent of the universe. Lawrence Krauss, a theorist, was quoted as saying, “We’re just a bit of pollution. If you got rid of us, and all the stars and all the galaxies and all the planets and all the aliens and everybody, then the universe would be largely the same. We’re completely irrelevant.” Like dust. It is possible that dark matter and energy are issues that humankind will never figure out – they may simply be beyond the capacities of our five senses. But they might not even exist, in which case our current understanding of physics is fundamentally flawed. A physicist might spend her entire life trying to figure out something that humans are not capable of perceiving in any way. Or she might redefine the fundamental way we understand everything. Brave physicists, riding their horses out there in the dark, dusty frontier.

Another thing I learned in the article is that there is a microwave signal that can be detected from every direction of the universe. It is widely believed that this is the echo from the beginning of the universe. Dude. What if it is someday calculated that the universe will come to end at a precise point in time? No Mars to escape to. Not even another galaxy. In the last few years of the universe, would life be better or worse?

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