Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dark matters

I've always been uncomfortable with the term "Dark Matter."  Whatever the phenomenon behind unexplained gravitational forces might be, leakage from an alternate universe or MOND or TeVeS we're only guessing what it is from the observable world where mass has gravity.  Yes, it's presumptuous of me to talk about things so far over my head (pun partially intended) but when I heard  Neal DeGrasse Tyson explain to Bill Moyers that the existence of such invisible "stuff" was only suggested by habit I was impressed, as I usually am when someone otherwise impressive agrees with my muddy observations.  “What it truly is is dark gravity. Boom,”  Sounds right to me and right to the point. We see what habit primes us to see.  Obviously a genius.

I have to like the guy and although some astrophysicists seem to have fled out into the cosmos  to escape the rest of us and others dislike scientists who make the effort to share their enthusiasm for science with the world, seeing that as an effort to sell ideas without peer review, I don't think his regard and his enthusiasm for public understanding of what's going on at the frontier of knowledge is a fault. I'm looking forward to the rest of his series  The New Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

I have to like the guy even more after reading this excerpt from his new autobiography: The Sky is not the Limit

"When combined with the dozens of times I have been stopped and questioned by the police for going to and from my office after hours, and the hundreds of times I am followed by security guards in department stores, and the countless times people cross the street upon seeing me approach them on the sidewalk, I can summarize my life’s path by noting the following: in the perception of society, my athletic talents are genetic; I am a likely mugger-rapist; my academic failures are expected; and my academic successes are attributed to others."

If that doesn't resonate with you somehow, perhaps only that alternate universe hypothesis can explain it.  Dr. Tyson is an exceptional man and not only for being able to do the math that stumps a brain such as most of us have, but for succeeding at doing what society has constantly told him he couldn't, shouldn't and wasn't suited to do.  An example for the young, certainly, but more deliciously a slap in the face for smug, condescending attitudes from those who think they know something important about you by referring to a stereotype. 

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