Weekend Diversion: Dark Matter Outreach for the Pros?

“Dubito ergo cogito; cogito ergo sum.”

(I doubt, therefore I think; I think therefore I am) –Rene Descartes

I always try to give you something beautiful completely unrelated to astronomy, physics, or cosmology for the weekend. So if I’m going to talk to you about dark matter, I figured I’d better go for a particularly beautiful song. For those of you who don’t know the voice of Regina Spektor, have a good listen, because I think she might be the best young vocalist out there today. Here’s her song,

The first week of this past December was designated to be Dark Matter Awareness Week, which, as far as I know, made an unprecedented effort.

Led by Paolo Salucci, a collaboration of top scientists — but not large-scale structure cosmologists like me — put together a well-reasoned, coordinated programme to get the word out about dark matter. And they even include a statement as to why they think it’s important for anyone working in many areas of physics to be aware and informed about dark matter.

The distribution of matter in galaxies of different luminosities and Hubble types, as inferred from observations, plays an important role in cosmology, extragalactic astrophysics, astroparticle physics, as well as in a number of issues in high-energy astrophysics, galactic astronomy, star formation and evolution and general relativity. Notwithstanding the general successes of the LambdaCDM scenario in explaining the structure and evolution of the universe, there is a growing conviction that the structural properties of the dark and luminous components in galaxies hold important clues about the nature of dark matter and the processes that are responsible for galaxy formation. This initiative aims to be serious effort to communicate results from those scientists working in the field of galaxy structure, to those scientists engaged with the dark matter problem in astrophysics, astroparticle physics and cosmology.

So, here’s what they did.

They made a presentation (materials available for download here), complete with powerpoint slides, explanatory notes, and a couple of movies, and organized an effort to have the same talk given worldwide. The results?

This talk was given in over 140 places, spanning 46 countries. From Iceland to Australia, from Japan to South Africa, from Brazil to Canada.

That’s right. Working scientists, people who normally don’t do outreach, were encouraged to give this talk, and to spread this information all over the world. And it was a tremendous success.

Why is this important? Because the dark matter problem could have the next hints of its solution show up in many, many fields of physics, and if this awareness isn’t out there, people could throw away this vital data, and chalk it up to experimental error.

If you’re a serious (grad level or higher) student of this, or would like to be, check out the presentation and notes; there’s plenty of excellent information in there. And if not, I hope you can appreciate the effort to spread awareness of one of the most important unsolved problems out there! Either way, have a great weekend!