THE BIG IDEA: Half of The Missing Universe Has Been Found



Woman with new car key.Ever lose your keys? This is a big problem, isn’t it? Not only are your car keys and their whereabouts a big deal, but without them, you can’t get to where you need to go. So it’s a good thing to know where your car keys are. Keeping track of them helps you keep your sanity, let’s be honest.

The same thing can be said about knowing the limits and boundaries of the universe. When those go missing, you can’t seem to focus on much else.

As Douglas Adams said in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Space is big.” Physicists are trying to figure everything out. It’s what they do. When it comes to the universe, though, the mere notion of measuring it is a massive undertaking. When they undertake this calculation, the results are being somewhat skewed on account of bad numbers. The expansion is being altered by more mass than we apparently have. In other words, it looks like we have more mass than we can see.

So the question is, where is this missing mass?

This was the mystery two independent teams set out to solve, and believe they have succeeded in doing. Scientists have found the missing half of the universe. Not only is this a big idea. This is really, big, big news.

Spiral galaxyNow maybe you are wondering “How do you miss a part of the universe?” When you are applying high-level math and the numbers are incomplete, it is actually quite easy. Until now, the “misplaced” matter had not been hot enough to spot using X-ray. These physicists from France and the UK were determined to come up with new means of detecting it. They measured residual light from the Big Bang passing through space, and then—using data from the Planck satellite—were able to combine data from different angles and superimpose those angles on top of each other. The endgame with these scientific teams was to discover a small effect where the light would be absorbed as it was passing through the universe. It is this abrogation of light in certain areas that indicate the existence of matter. When these French-UK scientists came to this conclusion, they discovered galaxies—entire galaxies—in the universe are all connected by an incredible web of interlocking baryon particles. Within these strings connecting galaxies across the universe exists enough mass to accommodate the other half of the universe.

From a Physics perspective, this is a big deal; and here is a bit of trivia for you. A baryon particle is classified as a ‘heavy’ particle. The first part of this element—barys—means “heavy” in Greek.

This is, of course, science that we are talking about. This means these teams, as well as colleagues from around the world, are going to carry out further research and validate this discovery. I know, it may be an odd thing to ask scientists. “Are you certain you have found the other half of the universe?”

As I said earlier in this article, this is what scientists do.



shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratford University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is the host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.