Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dark Matter: The Movie

Actor Liu Ye before the cosmic web of DARK MATTER

Controversy about Dark Matter has been with us at least since Fritz Zwicky in the 1930's. From motions of the Coma Cluster in Berenices, Zwicky deduced the existence of unseen mass. His eccentric manner earned Zwicky much derision from colleagues, whom he called "spherical bastards" because they appeared that way from any direction. Astronomer Vera Rubin saw spherical haloes of dark matter in the rotation curves of galaxies. On the way she probably encountered challenges to women and to new ideas, dark matters which have always been with us.

Argument about this unseen mass continues to this day. An alternative theory called Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) has been championed by Mordecai Milgrom since the 1960's. Recently observations of the Bullet Cluster seemed to confirm the Dark Matter's existence, but MOND advocates quickly found a way to make observation fit their theory. Argument exists whether Dark Matter is composed of Black Holes, undiscovered particles, old AOL disks, something else or a combination.

DARK MATTER is a film by opera and theatre director Chen Shi-Zheeng. Liu Xing (Shooting Star) arrives at an American PhD program with plans to study the Universe. His talents get him accepted into the cosmology group by department head Aidan Quinn and wealthy patron Meryl Streep. He accompanies his professor to a cosmology conference and comes up with an original Theory about Dark Matter.

Liu clings to belief that science is a free market for ideas. Unfortunately his Theory conflicts with the professor's model and the hierarchical university system. After being warned against pursuing his idea, Liu publishes on his own. The paper is derided, his dissertation is rejected, and Liu finds himself unemployed in a strange land. His frustrations explode in a graphically violent end. The movie was inspired by a University of Iowa physics department meeting in 1991, when a grad student killed five colleagues and himself.

DARK MATTER the movie was completed a year ago, but sat on the shelf because of the Virginia Tech tragedy. (The campus had been declared a gun-free zone, which didn't discourage the lunatic from mowing down 32 defenseless people.) Some of us women have encountered opposition from professors who possibly didn't need to be around. Having enjoyed similiar experiences, one can say that there are better ways than violence. Better to let them live long enough to see how wrong they were.

The exact amount of Dark Matter can be predicted from pure math. It is 23.87%, exactly matching the WMAP findings within half a standard deviation. Theory also provides big clues to what the Dark Matter really is. The amount of baryonic matter can also be predicted as 4.507034%, also matching WMAP within half an S.D. When a prediction fits the data this closely, perhaps someday more people will take notice. Until then, it is fun asking lecturers about the 4.507034% and seeing their befuddled reaction.

More Space news in the new Carnival of Space!

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Blogger nige said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:54 AM  
Blogger nige said...

'Liu clings to belief that science is a free market for ideas. Unfortunately his Theory conflicts with the professor's model and the hierarchical university system. After being warned against pursuing his idea, Liu publishes on his own. The paper is derided, his dissertation is rejected, and Liu finds himself unemployed in a strange land.'

That film sounds realistic on the topic of coercive mainstream tactics and censorship, even if it doesn't stick entirely to the details of the incident that inspired it.

'I'm sure you understand that science is now a gigantic enterprise and a small number of scientifically-trained journalists are not the right people to decide which experiments and theories are correct.'

That is a sentence from a letter Dr Alun M. Anderson, then editor of New Scientist, sent me on 2 June 1997. (The letter is at .)

It demonstrates the key difference between 'the free marketplace of ideas' depicted in fairy tales about how science should run, and the evil reality of the the 'gigantic enterprise' which wave-particle duality discoverer Louis de Broglie warned of on April 25, 1978 (de Broglie's PhD introducing wave-particle duality - which directly led to Schroedinger's work and hence all of quantum mechanics and field theory - was nearly rejected before Einstein intervened):

'The history of science teaches that the greatest advances in the scientific domain have been achieved by bold thinkers who perceived new and fruitful approaches that others failed to notice. If one had taken the ideas of these scientific geniuses who have been the promoters of modern science and submitted them to committees of specialists, there is no doubt that the latter would have viewed them as extravagant and would have discarded them for the very reason of their originality and profundity. As a matter of fact, the battles waged, for example by Fresnel and by Pasteur suffice to prove that some of these pioneers ran into a lack of understanding from the side of eminent scholars which they had to fight with vigor before emerging as the winners. More recently, in the domain of theoretical physics, of which I can speak with knowledge, the magnificent novel conceptions of Lorentz and Planck, and particularly Einstein also clashed with the incomprehension of eminent scientists. The new ideas here triumphed; but, in proportion as the organization of research becomes more rigid, the danger increases that new and fruitful ideas will be unable to develop freely.

'Let us state in a few words the conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing. While, by the very force of circumstances, research and teaching are weighted down by administrative structures and financial concerns and by the heavy armature of strict regulations and planning, it becomes more indispensable than ever to preserve the freedom of scientific research and the freedom of initiative for the original investigators, because these freedoms have always been and will always remain the most fertile sources for the grand progress of science.'

But as Dr Alun M. Anderson wrote to me, a small number of scientifically-trained people can no longer trust themselves to decide which experiments and theoriess are correct.

Instead, they must only respond to enormous bandwaggons or political forums. The role of free individual is over, because the journals can't decide whether such research is correct or not.

Only peer-review is acceptible. Because peer-review means that you need peers, you must work on orthodox ideas that other people are also working on. Otherwise there is no true peer-review.

This is how groupthink has become a catch-22. Anything really original is automatically censored out because there are no peers to endorse it.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great, another movie from liberal holywood showing "bad Americans" and how free the minds of othrs are...sick. In China if one says the following words "china shold not build the three gorges dam" one goes to jail. That is the law.

This country and its schools are the best 'cause they are free and to impoly otherwise is disgusting prpaganda.

How about a movie about an American in beijing trying to speak the truth about the killer moa?

Naah, that is no good, it doesent bassh the US!


11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bad spilling on porpose thitz tinm


11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well despite all the other racial matter, the message embedded in the movie was the imbalance of power between professor and students. the strangeness of a foreign and its ability to destroy, to ambush some one's talent. for god's sake, liu cant even express himself well, where the hell would he be able to convince the professor and have a good relationship with him?

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