"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
- Hebrews 11:3
Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there. In this case, "it" is what physicists call "dark matter." They can't see it, they can't measure it (at least not directly), and they don't know what it is made of. Yet scientists believe it constitutes over 90 percent of all the matter in the universe.
In an ambitious undertaking, scientists from all over the globe have come together to build the world's largest particle accelerator. The CERN Large Hadron Collider is perhaps the most ambitious science experiment of all time, with it scientists hope to finally uncover the secrets of dark matter and the so-called "god particle". Together these two mysteries represent the holy grail of astronomy and physics.
The existence of dark matter was proposed in 1932 by astronomer Jan Oort, who measured the motions of nearby stars in our Milky Way relative to the galactic plane. He found that the mass of the plane must be more than the mass of the material that can be seen. A year later, Fritz Zwicky examined the dynamics of clusters of galaxies and found their movements similarly perplexing. Over the years, many spiral galaxies were observed and found to be swirling too fast to be held together by the gravitational pull of the visible stars. If extra mass were not there exerting a pull, some of the stars would be flung away because they were moving so fast. But they're not. That is why some scientists describe dark matter as "the glue that holds the universe together."
Astronomers cannot detect or measure dark matter directly because it emits no light or radiation - hence the name. Its existence is inferred from the gravitational effect it has on visible matter (such as stars and galaxies). There have been a number of conjectures regarding the nature of dark matter, but all of them have eluded any empirical validation. Meanwhile various new theories have emerged that seek to explain one of the most puzzling mysteries of our universe (see links below to learn more).
The God Particle
The Higgs boson, often called the "god particle", is perhaps the most elusive element of particle physics. Like dark matter, scientists have yet to observe it, and cannot even prove that it exists.
The Standard Model in particle physics, which is often compared to the Periodic Table of Elements used by chemists, consists of 16 particles that make up all matter in the universe. The problem is that the Standard Model is not complete. So in the late 1960's a physicist by the name of Peter Higgs proposed the existence of a particle that would somehow interact with every other subatomic particle to give them all mass. Since then, scientists have been scrambling to find the "god particle".
The Big Bang Experiment
Physicists hope CERN's Large Hadron Collider will shed even more light on dark matter, dark energy, the existence of extra dimensions, and the fundamental nature of matter, energy, space and time. Various tests are taking place this week in preparation for the official launch on September 10th. The media has labeled the project as the "Big Bang" experiment, and BBC radio has dubbed the 10th as "Big Bang Day."
The Large Hadron Collider is a 10 billion dollar, 17-mile circular tunnel, which spans the border between Switzerland and France. The massive underground laboratory took ten years to build and the project involves more than 8,000 scientists from at least 85 countries. The scientific community believes the collider will one day help them unlock the some of the best kept secrets in the universe. Until then, they must continue to trust in things unseen.
Science, like religion, often requires us to take a leap of faith. Any scientist worth his salt must admit that despite centuries of scientific discovery and technological advances, most of our universe remains a mystery. There is so much we do not fully understand: from the basic building blocks of life to the mysterious particles that hold our entire universe together.
Every year new scientific discoveries are made. Many hope science will one day give us the answers to life's most troubling questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Does God exist, and if He does, what is His nature? Since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, the answers to these questions have been sought by examining the nature of the universe and its life forms. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul made a remarkable statement regarding the relationship between our understanding of the universe and the existence and attributes of God. According to Paul, not only is the existence of God inexcusably evident, but the invisible attributes of God can also be discerned with an examination of creation:
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20)."
To examine Paul's argument in further detail, check out our briefing pack Beyond Coincidence
(this week's internet special) or our series The Creator Beyond Time and Space
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