Most of the our universe has gone missing! The sky, it turns out, is not falling. It’s worse.
It was bad enough when I learned, some decades ago, that I was just another variety of ape. I mostly got over that. It wasn’t so bad to learn that our sun is just another star (that was kind of neat, actually). However, the idea that our galaxy, the Milky Way, has something like 100 to 400 billion stars (turns out it is really hard to count stars in our galaxy) is a bit mind boggling. Just a bit. And then we learned that there are at least 100 billion galaxies. Ok, ok, I get it. In the “great scheme of things” I am kinda small.
But now this. Now they tell us that all the stuff we see—you, me, the stuff in the pantry and all the things in the garage and all of the earth and all of the whole darned Milky Way and the bazillions of stars in other galaxies—is only a small part of the universe.
Matter, all of it, apparently accounts for only five percent of the universe. Not only do I not matter (neither do you), but matter doesn’t matter. What physicists call “dark matter” accounts for 27 percent of the universe. What accounts for the other 68 percent? Dark energy. I am not making this up.
What is dark matter? And what is dark energy? We don’t know. Astrophysicists can measure the gravitational effects of dark matter. If it weren’t for dark matter galaxies would fly apart. And dark energy, which is two thirds of the whole bloody universe, is forcing the whole cosmos to expand at an accelerating rate. It’s everywhere.
So matter doesn’t matter. And darkness rules.
On the one hand, science has made and continues to make stunning advances.
On the other hand, what we do not understand is huge. Heck, our ignorance is positively cosmic. The universe that our senses can perceive is a tiny sliver of what is out there.
When I think of all the people in the world who are sure that we are the center of creation and that they have the answers I just shake my head. Ignorance produces arrogance.
Maybe a bit of humility is in order. Perhaps we should stick together. It’s dark out there.