A new theory suggests that dark matter and dark energy might be the same weird substance.

What is the universe made of? Easy one: matter and energy. Its obvious to think that the entire universe is made up of just that and nothing else. Here’s a catch: It seems the physical matter we know — the matter that makes up you — is just 5 percent of the entire universe. The rest is kind of “dark” and invisible, unidentified matter and energy that’s only detected by how it warps space due to gravity. However, new research suggest that dark matter and dark energy might be the same “illusive” thing lingering in the universe.

Related media: What is Dark Matter and Dark Energy?


Let’s Talk Dark Affairs

The best known theoretical model for the make up of the universe is known as the Lambda Cold Dark Matter Model (ΛCDM). This model states that 25 percent of the universe is made of dark matter in the form of probably halos surrounding galaxies and galaxies clusters that exerts gravitational influence to keep them from drifting apart. The model calls it “cold” because it didn’t move very fast as the universe was developing.

The model also states that another 70 percent of the universe is made up of (you guessed it) dark energy in the form that seems to exert a counter gravitational influence that’s making the universe expand faster and ever faster. In the Lambda Cold Dark Matter Model, dark energy is the lambda (Λ), the symbol Albert Einstein used to represent dark energy in his cosmological constant in his theory of general relativity — which dealt with the expansion of the universe.

This leaves us with 5 percent of the universe being baryonic matter: the kind of ordinary stuff that makes up literally everything in the universe that you know — stars, planets, comets, asteroids, water, people, and even you. This is the stuff that we interact with in the universe — that’s what we perceive as reality — the matter we know much about; it happens that’s just a significant fraction of our universe. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way to explain everything else?


What’s Really The 95 Percent Of?

new pie charts
Image: Physconomics | Energy Distribution of the Universe

A new 2018 theory published by Dr Jamie Farnes of the University of Oxford in England states that the invisible portion of the universe is made up of not dark matter and dark energy, but one “dark fluid.” This fluid has two primary features: One, it possesses negative mass. Regular mass (also positive-mass) is what exerts a gravitational pull to stars and planets; negative-mass would rather exert a gravitational push. In other words, if you fling a negative-mass ball forward, it would move backwards to you instead of moving away.

The whole idea of negative mass isn’t all that new; previous research ruled out an explanation for a negative-mass substance, while the force of the dark energy has been a constant over time. A negative-mass substance, if real, would only thin out as the universe expands. The second feature? According to Farnes’ theory, to fix this “thinning-out” issue, it states that this negative-mass substance would be continuously created through time.

(If this dark fluid is constantly produced like floss from an infinite cotton-candy machine, it never dilutes and it acts identically to dark energy).


Dark Matters Arise

Image: European Space Agency (ESO)

But what about dark matter? Dr Farnes also developed a 3D computer simulation of the universe suffused with this dark fluid to see if it crunch that, too. Aforementioned, dark matter is thought to be an invisible substance lurking through the universe that exerts gravitational influence that thugs on to galaxies. But if galaxies (with positive mass) are surrounded by some sort of dark fluid with negative mass, then it seems these counteracting forces would hold the galaxies together, and keep them from drifting apart.

“Clearly,” Dr Farnes wrote in an article for The Conversation, “there is evidence that this weird and unconventional new theory deserves our scientific attention.”


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, May 19, 2019.


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