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Monday, January 21, 2013

Dark Energy, Dark Matter, and the Things of the Spirit

"When I was your age, the universe was a lot simpler." So said Dr. Donald Schneider, professor of astronomy at Penn State, referring to the mind-bending discoveries in recent years about what physicists call dark matter and dark energy, difficult-to-observe "stuff that actually dominates the structure and behavior of universe." (See Joseph Gyekis, "Probing Questions: What Is Dark Energy and How Do We Know It Exists?," ResearchPennState, March 23, 2005, available at http://www.rps.psu.edu/probing/darkenergy.html. Also see Wikipedia's article on Dark Matter and Dark Energy.)

The strange entity known today as "dark energy," whatever it is, makes up 73% of the matter-energy of the universe. This energy form is something like anti-gravity, causing the universe to expand at an ever increasing rate, overwhelming the gravitational brakes of the cosmos. This mysterious substance is "dark" because it is so difficult to detect. Apparently distributed uniformly across space, the amount of it in the space occupied by the earth would be equivalent to about 10 milligrams of matter--essentially impossible to detect on a terrestrial scale. (University of Cambridge Office of Communications, "Cambridge Astronomers Honoured for Dark Energy Discovery," Sept. 6, 2007, http://news.admin.cam.ac.uk/news/2007/09/06/cambridgeastronomershonouredfordarkenergydiscovery/.) Only by observing the outer limits of the universe were scientists, such as teams at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California the Australian National University in Canberra, able to identify its presence and its dominant role.

Just a few years ago, the reigning scientific wisdom held that the force of gravity across the universe was constantly acting to attract the galaxies of the universe, and that gravity would continually slow the expansion of the universe or even reverse, leading one to a massive implosion, "the Big Crunch." But as scientists obtained precise data from distant supernovae to show how fast various parts of the universe were moving, the teams were astonished at what they found. Instead of collapsing or gradually slowing, the distant reaches of the visible universe were accelerating their expansion. The universe was expanding at an ever increasing rate, as if an unknown repulsive force was overwhelming gravity. Both teams initially believed that they had made an error, and spent significant time trying to find the mistake. But their analysis was correct. It was the model of the universe – the cosmic org chart, so to speak – that didn’t describe reality. Some strange force, dubbed "dark energy," was changing everything.

Dark energy is not the only thing that has confounded our understanding of the cosmos. We also have to account for another influencer that is far more significant than visible matter, a mysterious mover and shaker scientists call "dark matter." Dark matter refers to matter that we cannot see directly (it does not reflect enough light to be easily observed) but must be out there, based on the gravitational influence that it wields (unlike the anti-gravity aspects of dark energy, dark matter contributes gravitational pull). In fact, it is far more abundant that the matter we can see. Its dominating effects are evident from observations of the rotation of galaxies, the motion of cluster of galaxies, and the bending of light from distant objects. Its nature is still a matter of investigation, but it also overwhelms visible matter in its gravitational influence.

So scientists now understand that the major influencers in the universe include matter in the form of atoms, dark matter, and dark energy. And how do these compare? Based on detailed measurements, scientists have concluded that the best model to describe the macroscopic behavior of the universe is one with about 4 percent atoms, 23 percent dark matter, and 73 percent dark energy. We’re used to thinking of a universe made of visible matter such as atoms, but that’s only a tiny fraction of what is out there. The visible universe--the cosmic org chart, so to speak--describes only 4% of reality. Most of the influence shaping the motion of galaxies and the expansion of the cosmos comes from the unseen, from either dark energy or dark matter.

The cosmic org chart is broken because the things that may actually drive motion and behavior at a large scale may not be visible to us. There are forces and substances unseen to us that actually dominate reality.

Given that, dear reader, how wise is it to conclude that what we can see and feel in our tiny corner of the universe is sufficient for us to think we understand reality? There is so much we don't understand, but much that we can learn by tapping into the unseen power of God through the Spirit of God. Latter-day Saints have long been taught that the things of the Spirit are real, and that through the medium of the Spirit, significant information can be conveyed to us from God. To rule out the possibility of such sources of information seems foolhardy, especially when science is now faced with the certainty that the unseen actually dominates physical reality. Interestingly, long before science began realizing that unseen matter and energy dominates the universe, Joseph Smith taught that spirit is actually physically real matter. In Doctrine and Covenants 131, he said:
7 There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;

8 We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.
We don't know what kind of matter spirit is, but won't it be exciting to find out? One day, these things will be known to us. Meanwhile, we must seek the influence of the Spirit and the real information that the Holy Ghost can convey into our hearts and minds, giving us sure knowledge of things not yet seen. There is more than meets the eye to life and the universe, and it's time we start facing that reality.

11 comments:

Glenn Thigpen said...

Dark matter and dark energy are names given by scientists for something that they cannot measure and that the existence of such can only be observed. I don't know that they have ever came up with a theory of how it originated. It seems to me that if it existed before the big bang, it would have prevented the big bang. But what do I know?
Belief in God make it so much simpler. He created the universe, somehow, and employed the dark energy/matter to ensure that thsi universe does not collapse back upon his creations.
Just my take on it.
I like your comments on spirit matter.

Glenn

Anonymous said...

Great write up. I completely agree with notion that currently we are limited in understanding why the universe behaves in a way that is contrary to current theories. This only reinforces my feelings that there is an influence far above our understanding that guides the universe. Scott Larson

Anonymous Bosch said...

Compare D&C 131 with the philosophy of Epicurus. From http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/grphil/Epicur.htm

"For an Epicurean...[t]he soul or spirit is also composed of atoms, but of much finer types than those that constitute the body. Epicurus says,

'We must recognize generally that the soul is a corporeal thing, composed of fine particles, dispersed all over the frame, most nearly resembling wind with an admixture of heat, in some respects like wind, in others like heat. But, again, there is the third part which exceeds the other two in the fineness of its particles and thereby keeps in closer touch with the rest of the frame.' (Lives, 10.63)"

Interesting parallel. How could a New York farm boy have known? (Actually, Joseph Smith had a book called "Epicurio" in his "vast frontier library." Was it about Epicurus? Could it have influenced his thinking about spirit matter? Let the reader judge.)

Chas Hathaway said...

So awesome. I was just discussing this with my family last weekend. I love how the deeper we get into science, the more we find that the prophets were right. And while science never seems to convert anyone, it often reenforces the testimonies of the faithful.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

It is truly amazing how transparent Joseph was in everything that he did. Things that many people can now point out against his story are things they only know because he didn't hide it. Joseph clearly wasn't worried about anything he did undermining his purpose. He knew that he didn't have anything to hide, because he knew he wasn't lying.

Joseph showed the exact manner of 'studying it out' with all of the research and study he did before translating. He knew that he needed to do his part, and that just closing his eyes and asking for a translation without any effort wouldn't work.

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Perhaps one day while searching for something more to learn, with an eye single to the glory of God, Joseph stumbled across a book called Epicurio and was impressed to read it. Long ago, the Lord had prompted a man named Epicurus to think the way he did about spirit and matter. God knew. It was all a part of the Plan.
Let the reader judge ;)

Anonymous Bosch said...

It's good to see a fellow Latter Day Saint speak of the philosophies of men without disdain, even if it is to posit a story about how God inspired Epicurus just so that he could send a message to Joseph Smith more than 2,000 years later, and the latter could use it to generate scripture. Normally I don't encourage just-so stories, but this may be a positive development.

Jeff, why is it interesting that Joseph Smith taught that spirit is matter long before "science" realized that unseen matter and energy dominate the universe? Are you suggesting that dark matter might be spirit matter? If not, what motivates you to juxtapose these things? Is it also interesting that Epicureans taught that spirit is matter long, long before Joseph Smith?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Bosch, Joseph's statement does seem Epicurean. I suppose it's possible that he read something that stimulated his pondering and quest for revelation, resulting in the statement we now have. But the listing of a puzzling "Epicureo" title as a donated book doesn't tell us much. What was the book? Did Joseph ever read it or merely pass it on to the library? What was in it, did he read it, did it influence him--it's all speculation right now. But interesting.

Jeff Lindsay said...

If any of you can help us pinpoint what this "Epicureo" book was, I'd much appreciate it. Rather puzzling at the moment.

Openminded said...

"To rule out the possibility of such sources of information seems foolhardy, especially when science is now faced with the certainty that the unseen actually dominates physical reality"

Pretty big leap from "science still cant get a handle on physical reality" to "so we shouldn't rule out our human emotions when it comes to knowing what the deal is with spiritual reality".

At least science aims for rigor. Anyone with a "spiritual" feeling can make a religious claim, despite it interfering with someone else's "spiritual feelings".

Does it even matter to you that this Spirit of yours is highly inconsistent, even within Mormonism?

Anonymous said...

The whole idea of the expanding universe and dark energy revolves around the red shift phenomenon. But if red shift is due to energy loss in photons - recall that the energy of a photon is a function of its frequency - rather than relative motion, the universe won't be expanding and we won't need dark energy.

Michelle Hall said...

Yes, but if we take the red shift verbatim then we can hyperbolize the remaining dark matter into the quantum theorem of Isosceles at the first matrix thereby delivering the unopposed subjugations of Marxism into the juxtaposition of the photonic chasm thus manifesting the truth of the 3rd principle of Haemadispius. Wherefore upon the completion of the fourth habituation of Remon we can demonstrate the release of the Throckmorton reflex.

Give us a break, Anonymous. I've got an IQ of 150 but your comment looks alot like mine. And please, why are people ashamed to admit who they are? Michelle Hall from Bellevue, WA