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In The Rubber Chicken’s Burning Question series, we have successfully solved some of life’s greatest mysteries by asking every celebrity or inappropriate party we could find.  What is The Grimace? What do the birds and the bees do? How do you get to Sesame Street? Why does the sun shine? (The answers, in order: 1. Cloned Mutant Beetroot / 2. They Make Toast / 3.  A Global Network of Mario-Style Warp Pipes / 4. It’s Complicated.)

Isn’t it about time we applied this research technique to the Greater Good?  What if, instead of drawing upon pop-culture or lightweight philosophy, we turned to cold, hard science?

In my daily search for risqué Last Starfighter fan fiction, I accidentally stumbled upon an astronomy blog and learned a startling fact:
90% of the universe’s mass remains unaccounted for.

Today, we pitch the following question to our guests:
Where is the universe’s missing mass?

Well, Television’s Michelle Rodriguez?

Michelle Rodriguez

Film and TV actor best known for her roles in The Fast & The Furious and Lost

Regarding responses to Why Does The Sun Shine?, I realized I made a slight faux pas in my email response.  I said “black hole” instead of “black matter”.  Oops.  Hope you could possibly correct that for me, otherwise I love the answers, lots of people got really creative.  I realized, though, that until there is a definitive answer on where we truly come from, ultimately we could never do anything other than theorize on what makes the sun shine.

She didn’t answer the new question so much as correct an inconsequential typo from the previous one, but on the plus side, hey – Michelle Rodriguez!

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

Recently-retired Democrats senator for South Australia. The youngest woman ever to to join Parliament.

Dear Mr Craig,

Thank you for your e-mail.  I must say that I tend to rely on the scientists on these sorts of issues!

My understanding is that there is a big discrepancy between the gravitational forces that seem to be at play in the universe (and gravity is driven by mass) and estimates of the mass of the universe based on what we can observe, such as the stars and galaxies.  As you say, the observable universe seems to account for only around one tenth of the apparent total mass of the universe.

Scientists therefore believe the university is primarily made up of invisible mass that they have called ‘dark matter’.  There are a number of research efforts under way to try to learn whether this dark matter actually exists and if so, what it is and how it behaves.

You might find the following NASA link useful as a starting point -

http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/science/know_l1/dark_matter.html

Yours sincerely

Natasha Stott Despoja

Senator for South Australia

Senator Despoja has long been regarded as an approachable voice of reason in Australian politics.  I was therefore surprised and alarmed to find her preaching this sci-fi mumbo-jumbo.  “Dark Matter”?   Conveniently invisible?  That sounds like lazy scientific exposition to me.

Whatever the real answer was, the Government was clearly trying to suppress it. I needed to contact somebody outside the establishment.  Somebody who could see through the conspiracy; willing to risk life and limb to reveal The Truth, for it was indeed Out There.

And, in my eagerness to find that Truth, I accidentally contacted him twice.

Dean Haglund

Played paranoid journalist Langley in The X-Files and spinoff The Lone Gunmen.

Mr. Craig

I thank you for your two recent identical questions on astrophysics. I was busy looking for an answer for the first question, and to have that answer rise above a lazy scientific explanation, when you second question arrived yesterday. I now must assume by the frequency of your queries that time is of the essence and haste must be included in my experiments in quantum mechanics. Thus, this will rule out my trip to Swiss particle accelerator where I would begin my search to answer your question.

Therefore, because of your incessant need for an answer without timely and thoughtful processes, I will have to resort to a wild guess.

The other 90% of the universe’s mass has gone missing in the dryer along with all my single socks.

Thank you for your time.

An intriguing idea, if one that raises an even more important question.  Where do those socks go?

If nothing else, Dean has given us a strong candidate for The Rubber Chicken’s next Burning Question.

Harry Shearer

Actor, comedian, radio host, musician and voice artist best known for his many roles on The Simpsons, including Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner.

I think it’s under my bed. Whatever’s down there scares me, I know that.

One of Harry Shearer’s most endearing characters is Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls.  Maybe other musicians from the 80s music scene he parodied can expand on his theory.

Men Without Hats:

Band best known for their 1983 synthpop hit Safety Dance.

All the dark matter is in my septic tank.

Cheers,

Stefan

DEVO

Long-running rock group best known for their 1980 hit Whip It.

The universe has its head up its ass. Follow the stench and you will find the truth.

Gerald V. Casale of DEVO

Both bands were wise to dismiss Dark Matter Theory to the realm of bodily waste.  On their own merits, either reply might come across as a lightweight joke.  But if two 80s pop sensations can independently reach the same conclusion, they’re clearly on to something.

I combined their suggestions followed the scent of my septic tank through the sewers, into the rivers, and all the way to the ocean.

Surfers Against Sewage

English environmental campaign

Hi Alastair, funny you should ask that, my mother’s brother’s wife has it. We call it aunty matter, she keeps it in a room without windows or a light and she calls it dark matter.  I hear you asking what’s the matter?  Sewage effluent is still being dumped into the seas and rivers posing a significant health risk to recreational water users, and don’t get me started on chemicals, nuclear waste or marine litter – that’s what the matter is!

Cheers

Andy Cummins

Campaigns Officer

I left this line of investigation more environmentally aware, yet no closer on the astrophysical front.  Before returning inland, I scrawled my predicament onto a note, placed it in a bottle and hurled it out to sea.  Which, as luck would have it, is precisely where one can find-

The Principality of Sealand

The self-proclaimed (but widely disputed) “smallest country in the world”, pictured above in its entirety.

Many thanks for your message to us here in the Principality which is receiving attention.

Chief of Bureau

Bureau of Internal Affairs
SEALAND 1001

Ambuguous but assertive.  A survey of Sealand’s population (10, at last count) could, however, take a while.  I passed the time with a scattershot method of inquiry and emailed a random selection of celebrities from all walks of life.

Could an anime voice artist, internet celebrity, Australian soap actor, controversial lawyer, MAD artist, influential scholar or renowned British comedian tell us where the universe’s missing mass is?

Tiffany Grant

Prolific anime voice actor, best known as Asuka in the English dub of Neon Genesis Evangellion..

No.

Robert Hamburger

Author of popular humour website Real Ultimate Power: The Official Ninja Webpage.

No.

Alan Fletcher

Australian actor best known internationally as Dr. Karl Kennedy on popular soap opera Neighbours.

Beats me.

Jack Thompson

Controversial lawyer and anti-videogame activist. (Disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court soon after this email.)

???

Peter Kuper

Versatile cartoonist with work ranging from TIME covers to Mad Magazine‘s “Spy vs. Spy”.

I wish I could help, but I have my hands full figuring out the speed of dark.

Noam Chomsky

Influential scholar, author, philosopher, linguist and libertarian socialist.

How on earth would I know? It’s one of the standard and striking examples of how hard it is to learn about how the world works.

Noam Chomsky couldn’t help us with our previous three Burning Questions, but I was really hoping he’d come through spectacularly with the fourth.  Thanks again, Noam.  Same time next year?

Lenny Henry

British comedian and TV personality.

Thank your for your email, sadly I don’t know where it is. But wherever it is I’m sure its just fine.

Next random weird question please!

Normal investigative techniques were getting us nowhere.  Perhaps the paranormal world could put us back on the trail.

Erich von Däniken

Author of Chariots of the Gods, which famously propsed alien beings had visited Earth in ancient times, influencing ancient myths, architechture and technology.

Dear Mr. Alastair Craig,

thank you for writing an e-mail message to Erich von Däniken. Even though Erich has read your message he doesn’t have the time to answer all of the hundreds of messages he receives personally.

However, since you have expressed such great interest in his work… (snip)

I really, really didn’t. And nor did the following 23 paragraphs (or the free issue of Legendary Times: The Official Newsletter of A.A.S.R.A – The Center of Ancient Astronaut Research!) offer any relevant information.  Still, it’s the thought that counts.  Thanks, Erich!

Uri Geller

Psychic famous for bending spoons with the power of his mind.

I believe its in the form of energy, but I’m no Einstein.

Much energy

Uri

No Einstein, eh?

Albert himself is no longer with us, but his modern incarnation still walks among amongst the mortal realm:

Alas, Yahoo Serious didn’t reply.  Maybe the documents and research the real Einstein left behind could give some clues instead.  It’s no Yahoo Serious, but Still.

The Albert Einstein Archives

Comprehensive collection of Einstein’s manuscripts at the Jewish National Library.

Hi Alastair,

Here is a quick answer to your quick question re universe’s mass:

  • parts of it unfortunately got lost in a Black Hole in Baker Street;
  • at the Albert Einstein Archives we are storing a very small percentage of the remaining mass (virtually);
  • and traces of the still unidentified rest may eventually be discovered soon by the Phoenix space craft that landed safely on Mars’s north pole yesterday.

I hope this is a satisfactory reply.

Best regards from Jerusalem,

Barbara Wolff
Albert Einstein Archives
Jewish National & University Library

Very satisfactory indeed, and it might well have been the final word, had “Baker Street” not put the 1978 Gerry Rafferty song of the same name in my head and sent my thoughts back to the music industry.

Joe Dolce

Former novelty musician (now a respected folk/gospel songwriter) internationally known for his record-breaking 1980 hit Shaddup You Face.

Dear Professor Craig,

Thanks once again, to you and your staff at chickenshite.com, for asking me to take time out of my busy lecture schedule to throw a few crumbs of knowledge your way.

I was happy to contribute to The Mystery of the Latitude and/or Longditude of Sesame Street even though you lost my only photo.

Then you asked for an opinion on The Mystery of Earth’s Yellow Sun which we cleared up, with scattered showers and temperatures ranging in the mid 30,000s.

Now, once again you request more free information? Do you think I’m made out of knowledge? Do you think that I went to college to get stupid?  Questions concerns the missing mass of the universe, orbits of planets and the amount of area swept in any given time, and such.  I have a question for you:

“Am I my brother’s Kepler?” (Big Bang Boom!)

I’m starting to feel like Archimedes when he got up out of the bath and noticed how much water had spilled out of the tub, and commented, “I’ve got to get out of displace!” (Big Bang Boom!)

All joking aside, I am always willing to contribute to the Sewage Tank of Common Misunderstanding.  Let me see if I can explain in layman’s terms (so the lowest common denominator of your readers can understand the meta-science) of what happened to the missing 90% of the universe’s mass.

While the concept of Dark Matter addresses the subject, it neglects to stamp the envelope. I would like to suggest we look at the idea of the BROWN DWARF.

Now, we know what a black hole is. A Black Hole is a tunnel at the end of light. (Big Bang Boom!)

The visible universe is a sphere with a diameter of about 28 billion parsecs (about 92 billion light-years) or about 3×10 to the 80 cubic meters.  (Try to get your tv remote clicking heads around that, kids!)  The Universe is a big place… perhaps the biggest. (Big Bang Boom!) Remember, anything that doesn’t matter has no mass. (Big Bang Boom! I got a million of them, folks.)

A balloon-borne telescope, Boomerang, launched from Ross Island, Antarctica, mapped out 400 square degrees or one per cent of the sky. The data was used to make an accurate determination of the density of the universe: 100 trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion tonnes (one metric tonne = one thousand kilograms).

Much smaller then imagined, you might say.  Well, entropy isn’t what it used to be. (Big Bang Boom!)

So what happened to the rest of the friggin’ Unniverse?  Theorectal Equations mean very little to the layman who most likely is also only using 10% of his thinking capability anyway. There is great resistance to this kind of visualization.

As they say:  Resistance begins at ohm. (Big Bang Boom!)

I’d like to try explain the concept of the sucking nature of the Brown Dwarf in simple everyday terms and herein refer to it as the’ Brown-Eyed Dwarf’, for this exercise, making reference, of course to the world’s favourite brown-eyed dwarf, George W. Bush, and the missing billions of tax payer dollars that are unaccounted for in Iraq.

What happened to the billions of Iraqi reconstruction money entrusted to the American Coalition? In just fourteen months, it burned its way through nearly $20 billion. But no-one can account for where it all went.  Iraq’s infrastructure is worse than ever before.

This little brown-eyed dwarf has sucked all these billions up with his handy little Suck Inc. vacuum cleaner and hidden it away under the floorboards of the bank accounts of his  fundamentalist cronies who inhabit a parallel universe to the one we live in.

The simple answer is this: inefficiency and bad management.

The solution: for our own little brown-eyed dwarf, Mr Bush, in a perfect world, we could step in our Dr Who telephone both, zip over to that alternate universe, tear up the floorboards of these corrupt corporations and retrieve those missing billions. In any case, come elections, the brown-eyed dwarf will soon be out of office and on the lecture circuit, with yours truly, and out of harm’s way.

For the question of the Universe and the Bigger Picture Brown Dwarf, ie The Gas Bag formerly known as The Heavenly Father, there is only one answer: Impeach God!

Brown Eyed Dwarf

(as recorded by Van ‘Morse’ Allen and the Radiator Belt Big Band)

Hey where did the Mass go,
Days when the Bang came
Down in the Cosmos,
Hypothesizing a new game,
Sucking and a skimming cash, hey
Cheating and a lying
In the gaseous chaos with
Our black holes a thumpin’ and you
My brown eyed dwarf,
You my brown eyed dwarf.

Regards,

Dr Joe ‘Josephus’ Dolce, PhDvd, Theoretical Sci-Fi

Thanks again to Professor Dolce for going far beyond the call of duty to deliever, uh, whatever he explained just now.

How about you, Mr. Video Game Industry?

Double Fine‘s Tim Schafer

The legendary game designer behind Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, The Excellent Game Psychonauts and the upcoming Brutal Legend.

I’m not sure. Where was the last place you used it?

Hothead Games’ Ron Gilbert

Creator of Monkey Island.

Grog.

Rare‘s Chris Allock

Designer/scriptwriter/tester at Rare Ltd. Creator of Mr. Pants 2000 .

Dearest Alastair,

It’s contained within European copies of Rock Band – the only possible explanation for the ungodly PAL price point. I’m not sure there are numbers big enough to extrapolate what the Australian price will be.

- Chris

Drew Karpyshyn

Game writer and novelist, whose most famous works include Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate and – a-ha! – MASS EFFECT.

Interestingly, much of it seems to be slowly accumulating around mywaistline as I age. I don’t *feel* as if I’m increasing in mass, and any visible physical changes are so subtle as to be almost invisible. Yet precise scientific instruments designed to measure this phenomenon (my bathroom scale) confirm a steady, seemingly inevitable increase – no doubt irrefutable evidence that dark matter exists, and is drawn to the gravity well beneath my belt.

This reply from Nick Earls controversially applies the Karpyshyn Waistline Theory to the universe as a whole:

Nick Earls

Popular Brisbane-based author of Zigzag Street and eleven other novels.

Hello Alastair,

I’m glad you’ve come to me in your hour of need, since this one’s actually pretty straightforward, and a common misinterpretation of ‘dark matter’ is at the heart of it. The expression was originally ‘darkened matter’, and a glance at the night sky makes its meaning clear. What colour is it? Black, but for a few twinkly stars (and that whole ‘why do stars twinkle’ thing is, I assume, a conundrum for another day). Everyone knows black is very slimming. The mass is all there in the stars, but the black sky makes them look particularly svelte (hence ‘darkened matter’, a term designed to account for the optical illusion that, in the presence of darkening, the amount of matter appears to be reduced). If we had, say, a yellow sky, or a sky with horizontal stripes, the stars would look like porkers and we’d be wondering if there were any gaps between them at all.

I’m sure Profs Trinny, Susannah and Carson Cressley would all back me up.

I believe it’s only conjecture that some galaxies achieve the same effect using pinstripes.

Nick

We could really be on to something here.  What do you think, Academy Award Winner Steve Box?

Aardman Animations’ Steve Box

Animator, Director, Voice Artist, Really Cool Guy.

Dear Alistair,

I believe Mass can be found at most Cathedrals and Churches at various times of the year. I believe.

Love Steve (Oscar winner). XXX

Taking this reply in the literal spirit with which it was clearly intended, I asked a respected representative of the Catholic Church.

Father Bob McGuire

Catholic Priest, community worker and co-host of television’s Speaking in Tongues and Triple J radio’s Sunday Night Safran.

Alastair,

Sorry. I live with the prevailing scientific explanation and thank God for the cosmos in all its intricacy.

Respect.

Bob Maguire.

Father Bob’s answer left no doubt. There was only one person I could ask next:

Dennis Locorriere

Songwriter and former lead singer of Dr Hook.

Alastair -

I had no idea so much was missing, but now that you’ve made me aware of the problem I’ll have a look ’round this cluttered flat of mine.

I’d be surprised if at least some of it isn’t here.

Inspired by Dennis’s quest, I, too, took a look around my own cluttered flat  for clues.

Bingo.

David Arnold

Grammy-winning composer of the last five James Bond films.

Hi Alastair

Most people don’t truly understand the nature of mass. An elephant is clearly bulkier and weighs more than an ant. Even in the absence of gravity, the elephant would have greater mass–it would be harder to push and set in motion. Obviously the elephant is more massive because it is made of many more atoms than the ant is, but what determines the masses of the individual atoms? What about the elementary particles that make up the atoms–what determines their masses? Indeed, why do they even have mass?

We see that the problem of mass has two independent aspects. First, we need to learn how mass arises at all. It turns out mass results from at least three different mechanisms, which I will describe below. A key player in physicists’ tentative theories about mass is a new kind of field that permeates all of reality, called the Higgs field. Elementary particle masses are thought to come about from the interaction with the Higgs field. If the Higgs field exists, theory demands that it have an associated particle, the Higgs boson. Using particle accelerators, scientists are now hunting for the Higgs.

The second aspect is that scientists want to know why different species of elementary particles have their specific quantities of mass. Their intrinsic masses span at least 11 orders of magnitude, but we do not yet know why that should be so. For comparison, an elephant and the smallest of ants differ by about 11 orders of magnitude of mass.

What Is Mass?

Isaac newton presented the earliest scientific definition of mass in 1687 in his landmark Principia: “The quantity of matter is the measure of the same, arising from its density and bulk conjointly.” That very basic definition was good enough for Newton and other scientists for more than 200 years. They understood that science should proceed first by describing how things work and later by understanding why. In recent years, however, the why of mass has become a research topic in physics. Understanding the meaning and origins of mass will complete and extend the Standard Model of particle physics, the well-established theory that describes the known elementary particles and their interactions. It will also resolve mysteries such as dark matter, which makes up about 25 percent of the universe.

The foundation of our modern understanding of mass is far more intricate than Newton’s definition and is based on the Standard Model. At the heart of the Standard Model is a mathematical function called a Lagrangian, which represents how the various particles interact. From that function, by following rules known as relativistic quantum theory, physicists can calculate the behavior of the elementary particles, including how they come together to form compound particles, such as protons. For both the elementary particles and the compound ones, we can then calculate how they will respond to forces, and for a force F, we can write Newton’s equation F = ma, which relates the force, the mass and the resulting acceleration. The Lagrangian tells us what to use for m here, and that is what is meant by the mass of the particle.

But mass, as we ordinarily understand it, shows up in more than just F = ma. For example, Einstein’s special relativity theory predicts that massless particles in a vacuum travel at the speed of light and that particles with mass travel more slowly, in a way that can be calculated if we know their mass. The laws of gravity predict that gravity acts on mass and energy as well, in a precise manner. The quantity m deduced from the Lagrangian for each particle behaves correctly in all those ways, just as we expect for a given mass.

Fundamental particles have an intrinsic mass known as their rest mass (those with zero rest mass are called massless). For a compound particle, the constituents’ rest mass and also their kinetic energy of motion and potential energy of interactions contribute to the particle’s total mass. Energy and mass are related, as described by Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared).

An example of energy contributing to mass occurs in the most familiar kind of matter in the universe–the protons and neutrons that make up atomic nuclei in stars, planets, people and all that we see. These particles amount to 4 to 5 percent of the mass-energy of the universe. The Standard Model tells us that protons and neutrons are composed of elementary particles called quarks that are bound together by massless particles called gluons. Although the constituents are whirling around inside each proton, from outside we see a proton as a coherent object with an intrinsic mass, which is given by adding up the masses and energies of its constituents.

The Standard Model lets us calculate that nearly all the mass of protons and neutrons is from the kinetic energy of their constituent quarks and gluons (the remainder is from the quarks’ rest mass). Thus, about 4 to 5 percent of the entire universe–almost all the familiar matter around us–comes from the energy of motion of quarks and gluons in protons and neutrons.

The Higgs Mechanism

Unlike protons and neutrons, truly elementary particles–such as quarks and electrons–are not made up of smaller pieces. The explanation of how they acquire their rest masses gets to the very heart of the problem of the origin of mass. As I noted above, the account proposed by contemporary theoretical physics is that fundamental particle masses arise from interactions with the Higgs field. But why is the Higgs field present throughout the universe? Why isn’t its strength essentially zero on cosmic scales, like the electromagnetic field? What is the Higgs field?

The Higgs field is a quantum field. That may sound mysterious, but the fact is that all elementary particles arise as quanta of a corresponding quantum field. The electromagnetic field is also a quantum field (its corresponding elementary particle is the photon). So in this respect, the Higgs field is no more enigmatic than electrons and light. The Higgs field does, however, differ from all other quantum fields in three crucial ways.

The first difference is somewhat technical. All fields have a property called spin, an intrinsic quantity of angular momentum that is carried by each of their particles. Particles such as electrons have spin 1/2 and most particles associated with a force, such as the photon, have spin 1. The Higgs boson (the particle of the Higgs field) has spin 0. Having 0 spin enables the Higgs field to appear in the Lagrangian in different ways than the other particles do, which in turn allows–and leads to–its other two distinguishing features.

The second unique property of the Higgs field explains how and why it has nonzero strength throughout the universe. Any system, including a universe, will tumble into its lowest energy state, like a ball bouncing down to the bottom of a valley. For the familiar fields, such as the electromagnetic fields that give us radio broadcasts, the lowest energy state is the one in which the fields have zero value (that is, the fields vanish)–if any nonzero field is introduced, the energy stored in the fields increases the net energy of the system. But for the Higgs field, the energy of the universe is lower if the field is not zero but instead has a constant nonzero value. In terms of the valley metaphor, for ordinary fields the valley floor is at the location of zero field; for the Higgs, the valley has a hillock at its center (at zero field) and the lowest point of the valley forms a circle around the hillock. The universe, like a ball, comes to rest somewhere on this circular trench, which corresponds to a nonzero value of the field. That is, in its natural, lowest energy state, the universe is permeated throughout by a nonzero Higgs field.

The final distinguishing characteristic of the Higgs field is the form of its interactions with the other particles. Particles that interact with the Higgs field behave as if they have mass, proportional to the strength of the field times the strength of the interaction. The masses arise from the terms in the Lagrangian that have the particles interacting with the Higgs field.

I could go, but to answer your question, I have a large bag under my desk which contains around 89% of the mass you are talking about, the other 1% I accidentally used up on the way here this morning.

I’m sure there is some more mass around, have you tried ebay?

Sincerely

David Arnold

Et tu, David?  It seems this “Dark Matter” propaganda had deluded even the most talented film composers.

But no sooner could this trail grow could before a Nigerian gentleman by the name of Maxwell Adams contacted me (a trustworthy individual) with an offer to share his inheritance.  No thanks, I explained.  I would only help in exchange for his thoughts on that missing 90%.

“Maxwell Adams”

Wealthy Nigerian In Need Of Assistance

Sir

Do you want a share of 90%  which is not possible for me to give to you only providing account for me.If you want to help me do it or you leave it your share is only 40% if you want tell me or not .I will not force you.

While we sort that little cultural misunderstanding out, let’s see what the Ninja Turtles make of it.

Donatello

(Contacted through the official TMNT website ‘s “T-Mail”.)

Greetings Alastair!

I’m afraid not, astrophysics isn’t a subject that I’ve spent much time with – but the theories are intriguing!

Take care,

Donatello

If a Turtle couldn’t deliver the facts, maybe their nemesis could.

Pat Fraley

The awesome voice artist behind Ninja Turtles villain Krang.

No idea. I do know that 90% of my auditions find the “dark matter” or at least “the black hole.” PF

There’s something horribly wrong with an industry that won’t hire somebody of Mr. Fraley’s calibre the moment he steps through the door.  If the dark secret lies in Hollywood, who could be more qualified to find it than a critic who knows the world of film and television inside and out?

Harry Knowles

Well-known online critic and editor of Ain’t It Cool News

Alastair,

One of my closest friends is one of the foremost Astrophysicists in the world.   Seriously – So I forwarded your question and skepticism of DARK MATTER to him and here’s his response.   Hope this clarifies a bit….

“Skepticism is natural, but it is very clear there are signs of excess gravity on many scales (galaxies, galaxy clusters, the whole universe) with no corresponding observable matter at any wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum.

You could interpret that as evidence that our theory of gravity is wrong, and hundreds of people are looking into that, so far without success.  The problem is that no single modified gravity theory can account for all of the data, and these theories do not generally work well with general relativity.  Also, they are not physically motivated, they are just fix-ups (fine tuning) to explain the data.  Plus, they have a hard time explaining the Bullet cluster, where the dark matter and gas appear to be separated:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet_cluster

Some friends of mine are starting to make maps of the apparent dark matter by noticing how the (presumed) matter gravitationally bends the  background light:

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/01/image/a/

The most likely explanation is that there is some particle that we have not yet discovered that does not interact with light.  Our monkey brains have a bias against this kind of thing, because there is no evolutionary pressure to evolve a sense to detect that kind of particle.  But that doesn’t bother me at all.  The whole field of particle physics consists of inferences we make from the fact that physics doesn’t quite work right unless why hypothesize a certain particle, then we build experiments like accelerators to detect those particles.  We just have not been clever enough to figure out the dark matter particle yet, though we have put limits on what it must be like, and people are searching for it.”

Copernicus

Again – hope that answers your question.

Harry

At first I was delighted that Harry and his mysterious friend would take the time to set the record straight with a reply both sincere and persuasive.  Maybe there was truth in this “Dark Matter” business after all.  Then I remembered we childishly exploited Harry’s trust back in 2004 with our General Grievous casting prank, so it’s only fair he’d want to throw us off with this so-called “science”.   Well played, Mr. Knowles.  Well played.

On closer inspection,though:
“Monkey brains”, you say?

Stuart Drummond

Thrice-elected Mayor of Hartlepool, UK, who made international headlines by successfully campaigning as “H’Angus the Monkey”.

Dear Alastair,

How’s it going?  I hope I’m not too late in answering your question, it is far too deep for my simple mind and it has taken me this long to do some in depth research and come up with a theory that I think will rewrite the science books.  After months of studying this question, I have come to the conclusion that they are lying!  The scientists are conning the world into thinking that outer space exists, when in actual fact, there is no such thing.  They want us all to think that stars, planets, galaxies and milky ways are out there somewhere, just so Governments will keep them in a job.  But it is not true!  It is all a lie and, until now, people have fallen for it.

The night sky is not a glimpse of other worlds, twinkling away.  It is a black canvas with a few holes in it and a light behind.  The moon doesn’t even exist, that is just a bigger hole in the canvas.  The sun (if you ever get to bloody see it in England) is just another light, which can be switched off at night.

What is more, I have discovered that the world is not round, as we are lead to believe, it is actually flat!  When a boat or ship sails or indeed a plane flies “round the world”, it is actually sailing or flying to the edge of the world and starting again on the other side.  Just picture a shooting alley at a funfair.  The ducks move along the target area, disappear at the end and then reappear at the other side.  That is exactly what happens with boats and planes.

Science has actually taken a huge step backwards since Christopher Columbus and the like came along.  People used to believe the world was flat until he came up with the mad cap idea that it was round, and they were right!  People like Copernicus and Hubble have had generations of humans tricked into believing all this rubbish about the universe.  Forget it!  Rip up your astronomy books!  They are all useless.  We can now stop paying all of these men in white coats zillions of dollars just to tell us about a non-existent place called, “dark matter”.  Let’s spend our money on discovering something useful, like a machine that can add extra hours to a day if you need it, but you would need anymore sleep to catch up on the extra time of being awake.  So, by the time you actually get round to sitting down with a glass of wine in the evening, to read a good book or watch some TV, it is not already 3 hours past your bedtime.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, in answer to your question and after much research, 90% of the universe’s mass is no where as it doesn’t exist and all scientists are witches (allegedly).

Best Wishes as ever,

Stuart.

Another fine reply from Mr. Drummond, if a rather startling one. Could that mass really be a lie?  Only one organisation had any real experience with that sort of question:

Hollow Earth Insider

“The most reliable source of Hollow Earth information on the web.”

Good question …I had never heard this before.   Could you send me some documentation and I’ll do some research then present it in our Mail box and see if anyone else can answer it.

With the Principality of Sealand and the Hollow Earth community both on the case, an answer is surely around the corner.  Still, we must press on in the name of SCIENCE

Pendleton Ward

Cartoonist and creator of the amazing short film Adventure Time

Golly,

Lately I’ve been closing my eyes and imagining what could be smaller than the even smaller particles that make up nucleons.  and it sorta looks like a gourd.. with nothing inside.  I imagine that nothing becomes something at that size.. filling the space between my empty gourd.

Don’t quote me on that.

yours truly,

-Pendleton Ward

Monkey Island‘s Ron Gilbert has already suggested the missing mass has the form of alcohol, and Pendleton’s superhuman vision of subatomic particles – revealing a container for this mass/beverage – supports this.  But Mayor Stuart “H’Angus The Monkey” Drummond – a consistently reliable source for all of our previous Burning Questions – claims the mass doesn’t exist at all.  Which simian source is to be trusted?

Another previously reliable source, Greg Wells, offers an entirely different theory on the missing mass’s whereabouts:

Greg Wells

Grammy-nominated producer, songwriter and musician.

Easy peasy – Kanye West’s ego.

Startlingly believable, but surely that can’t hold all the universe’s mass.

Doc Hammer

Co-Creator / co-writer / voice artist, The Venture Bros.

3% is kept in my world-weary brow… The rest? Check behind the refrigerator.

Wait, now it’s in Doc Hammer’s head as well?  Could it be spread over a network of brains?

Terry McGovern

Actor, TV/radio personality and the voice of Ducktales‘ Launchpad McQuack.

Have you looked at you head recently, Alastair?

And my mind too?  I’m starting to dread the answer could, quite literally, be inside me all along.

I followed Terry’s instructions, and armed myself with the latest cognitive analysis software from the Apple Application Store. Sure enough, there it was.  The Answer.  There was only one thing on my mind.  The only thing that, deep down, is on anyone’s mind.

Tacos.

Tasty, tasty tacos.

I went to the definitive source for confirmation, and got it.

The Alibi Room
(Home of Brisbane’s Famous “Taco Tuesday”!)

720 Brunswick St, New Farm, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

It is here at the Alibi Room and it is in the form of delicious tacos!

So come and help science out by eating some!

Looking back over this impressive collection of replies, I realised nearly every theory made perfect sense if one assumed they referred to delicious tacos.

This simple diagram proves it:

And so solved The Mystery of the Missing Mass.  And, for that matter, astrophysics as a whole.

A huge “thank you” to those who contributed, wittingly or unwittingly. You are the wind beneath our wings.

What Burning Question would you like to see answered next? Which celebrities could help us solve them?
Let us know by leaving a comment below.

More Celebrity Burning Questions:
Why does the Sun Shine?
How do you Get to Sesame Street?
What do The Birds and The Bees Do?
What is The Grimace?

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7 Responses to “Celebrity Burning Question: Where is the Universe’s Missing Mass?

  1. Alastair CraigNo Gravatar Says:

    I think “where do the missing socks go?” would make a great question next round. Internet, just between the two of us, what do YOU think?

  2. ZinggyNo Gravatar Says:

    Maybe. Perhaps try for another fundamental question form, though.

    So far you’ve got two “What”s, and one each of “Where”, “Why”, and “How”. Consider trying for a “Who” or a “When” to round out the set.

    I will, of course, toss a grot in the pot if anything in particular strikes me.

    I like how Uri Geller was almost perceptibly not crazy this time.

  3. ZinggyNo Gravatar Says:

    I am the internet. I like it when they rub together.

  4. ZinggyNo Gravatar Says:

    “Are we there yet?”

  5. Alastair CraigNo Gravatar Says:

    A great question, but it lends itself too easily to simple “yes”, “no” or other lazy answers. If it weren’t for that, I’d love to do it. (“Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego” is another classic “great question, but for the same reason.) Please keep them coming, though!

    And many thanks to those who helped circulate this article on the Facebooks, where it’s doing rather well for itself. Jawsome!

  6. Zach RichNo Gravatar Says:

    I’m still wondering just who that mysterious masked man is.

  7. Alastair CraigNo Gravatar Says:

    Your mother.

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