PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY WRITERS
T. E. Mark’s Blog
Dark Energy – Dark Matter
‘Outer space is dark’
‘It may be completely empty – thus the darkness’
‘It may, however, be filled with really weird stuff we can’t see – because it’s so dark’
‘At this point in time, we have no solid evidence space is filled with anything but… space’
‘What to do?’
The Greeks and the Aether:
A very long time ago, those absorbingly, intuitive Greeks took the initiative and decided to attack this issue. Having already hypothesised the existence of atoms, (Democritus) calculated the circumference of the Earth, (Eratosthenes) and developed a whole mess of mathematics that was preposterously ahead of its time, (Pythagoras – Archimedes – Euclid) it is quite understandable that even they were in need of a new challenge.
So, they looked up at the night sky and thought – deeply. (Being an ancient Greek with no laboratories, orbiting telescopes, or particle colliders, deep thinking was pretty much compulsory.)
At some point, while thinking rather deeply, someone (Aristarchus, Anaxagoras, Anaximenes or another of those treacherously bright ‘A’ guys) looked at his mates and said:
‘Hey – I’ll bet it’s filled with dark black jelly called Aether.’
His friends, bedazzled by their friend’s prescient, but absurd sounding, remark, probably responded:
To which he responded:
‘Seriously. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t all of those stars, and nebula, and quasars, and galaxies, and globular clusters all come crashing down upon us?’
This was most certainly followed with much more of that deep thinking. Then, after a long while, one of those very special ‘A’ guys may have said – eloquently, I’m sure:
I’m sure you know the rest of the story. No? Okay, well… Time for a refresh then. For the next 2000 years, and counting, scientists, now equipped with all of those aforementioned inventions, have been looking up, only farther, into that blackness, trying to find proof of that black jelly – now calling it Dark Energy and Dark Matter. (Since Einstein, with E= MC2, stated that Matter and Energy are simply different flavours of same thing, I’m equally mystified about the distinction here. Of course, I’m known to be easily, if not eagerly, mystified, so perhaps it’s just me.)
The hunt goes on, along with the debate, which can get rather heated at times, but from the hunt, we have learned some rather fascinating things.
Rather Fascinating Things:
Dark Matter & Dark Energy are dark – very, very dark. (Assuming they even exist)
The Universe is expanding – faster now than it was billions of years ago. (This gives rise to the probability that space is filling with something – pushing everything outwards. Could it be that black jelly? What the Greeks called the Aether? What we call Dark Energy / Matter?)
Space is hardly empty – Electromagnetism
Space is literally filled to the gills with electromagnetism. Most we cannot see: Gamma Rays, X-rays, Ultra-Violet light, Infrared radiation, Micro-waves and Radio waves.
All of these are zipping around throughout the blackness of space, just near the speed of light, minding their own business, jiggling off of things and weaving a really bizarre web throughout the universe.
These waves, including visible light, which we CAN see, stream out from the multitude of stars.
Thus, outer space is hardly empty. In fact, it’s a veritable playground of energy. And since Energy is simply Mass, (or matter – the terms are pretty much interchangeable) outer space is, in every way, a matter and energy convention.
‘WHY, THEN,’ you might ask, ‘is this electromagnetic spectrum not the elusive Jelly – the Aether – the Dark Matter / Energy?’
The textbook answer is: Because there’s still a whole lot of room between those electromagnetic waves, about 80% of the universe worth, and they’re NOT causing the acceleration of the expansion that we’ve observed. Galaxies are literally galloping away from each other – faster and faster, and we just can’t seem to put a finger on why.
But is this true?
Perhaps the Aether IS just electromagnetism. A magnificent patchwork quilt of these electromagnetic waves screaming out from the stars. And perhaps the reason the universe is expanding more quickly as time goes on is simple logistics. Perhaps there are simply more new stars born each day than there are old, weary stars dying. Space would thus be filling more quickly than it was in the past, and… expanding more rapidly.
It’s simplistic, but… ‘Hey, could work!’
What we know and what we don’t know:
More is unknown than is known – Only in theoretical physics can you get away with lines like this. Imagine the PM or President addressing the people on the State of the Union with; ‘More is unknown than is known.’ (That’d sure settle things.)
The universe is expanding.
The universe is expanding faster than it was before, when it was expanding more slowly, or, less quickly.
Dark Energy (if it exists) makes up 67% of the universe.
Dark Matter (if it exists) makes up 27% of the matter in the universe. (I’m still puzzling the distinction here and hoping to have something definitive by the commercial break.)
Dark matter is not like ordinary matter. It’s dark. Very, very dark!
Dark Matter is not Galaxy sized Black Holes. (Boy, there’s good news. I mean…)
Dark Matter is not Anti-Matter.’ (Whew! Well-over 2000 hours and counting on that grant proposal to create a nanogram of anti-matter. Pity if it turned out to be just everywhere. In vast quantities.)
We have no explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe. In fact, we don’t know why it’s expanding at all.
Perhaps space is acquiring additional energy and matter. An explanation of how space acquires energy may come from the quantum theory of matter. In this theory, empty space is filled with temporary (Virtual) particles. These particles continually appear and disappear from the universe. (Kind of like your keys on those days you’re running late.)
Dark Energy / Matter may be the answer – if it/they exist. Space, in other words, may NOT be filled with electromagnetism and vast amounts of nothingness. If we accept this, Einstein suggested it so that’s plenty fine for me, we can also accept that Dark Energy / Matter may simply be a property of space – woven right into it like threads on a blanket.
This would mean, that as the universe expands, and more space becomes part of the universe, more Energy and Matter would be brought into it, thus creating the expansion, and more importantly, the acceleration. (It’s just too bad this doesn’t work with Real Estate – This year an 800 ft2 apartment, next year 1100 ft2 – Awesome!)
Quintessence. This is yet another explanation – the term coming, yet again, from those ancient Greeks.
In this one, space is actually filled with a weird fluidic, or field-like substance that acts differently than typical matter/energy. Rather than succumbing to the effects of gravity, this substance or field actually does the opposite. (I like this theory. It’s imaginative to think that the big G may work differently and become a pushing, rather than a pulling force. Great Plot Device, BTW)
Einstein’s theory of Gravity may need revision. Perhaps there is no real reason for gravity to pull the universe back in on itself. Perhaps Gravity in space works differently. (This is scientific politeness at an apex. Venturing to call Einstein wrong, on anything, would be like declaring war on a country for having Majorly Destructive Weapons, but only finding three rusty WW2 tanks and 15 roman candles when the dust settles.)
A brief word about NORMAL matter:
Normal matter, though we won’t term it light matter for reasons undisclosed, as we probably should, comprises all the matter in the universe that is not dark matter. That would include:
- Stars, planets, galaxies, quasars, comets…
- You, me, and basically everyone not directly associated with a political campaign.
- And even all those electromagnetic waves zipping about.
Though I see no real purpose in hyperventilating over Normal Matter, there is, however, one issue that should be addressed – that is, whether it should in fact be termed…Normal.
As it comprises only 5% of the matter in the known universe, one could certainly make a case for it being reclassified. Consider this as a corollary: Pluto was reclassified as a Dwarf Planet back in 2006. They could have allowed it to remain an Ordinary Planet, and called the other eight: Oversized, Extraordinarily Spherical Planets, with Elliptical Orbits……right? But they didn’t.
So, with little solid evidence of this elusive dark jelly, that comprises roughly 80% of the universe, let’s shift directions, and discuss how Dark Matter and Dark Energy might prove useful to the illustrious Science Fiction writer. And how this knowledge may benefit the virtually innocent, but not necessarily uninformed reader.
First, some terminology for you – along with a smattering of diligently researched, and even vaguely plausible, definitions.
Here are a just a couple that come to mind.
Readily available, inexhaustible energy source.
Cities, (burbs and rural areas too) pulling electrical energy directly from space. Clean. Non-GMO. Local. Free.
Automobiles, planes, trains etc – all electric – all pulling this currently elusive energy directly from space. No emissions. Never stopping for petrol. Never even needing to stop, really. (Sydney to Melbourne, nonstop via New York.)
Electronic devices, tools and appliances. All pulling energy from out there. No plugs. No energy grid. No monthly statements. (Sounding good all of a sudden, huh!)
Rocket ships could travel endlessly – powered simply by drawing energy from the space around them. With the EM Drive, (Covered in the previous issue ‘FTL Faster Than Light’) interstellar travel would not only be possible, it’d be like, blazingly convenient.)
Readily available for constructing replacement parts on interstellar missions.
Source of Oxygen?
Fashionable, but thoroughly useless ski-wear?
Most Excellent Terminology – Great for Sci-Fi writers.
Cosmological Constant – Taken from one of Einstein’s Gravitation theories. Space can have its own energy. As the universe expands – more space, and thus, more energy.
(Cool term – great concept – no proof – rats!)
Quintessence – Some type of fluidic, or field-like energy that fills the universe acting opposite of that of ordinary matter or energy.
(Essentially pushing things away rather than pulling them closer. Kind of the way girls were in junior high.)
Baryonic Matter – Normal Matter – Matter comprised of Protons, Neutrons and Electrons.
(Remember, only 5% of the matter in the universe – may want to take that into consideration)
MACHOs – Massive Compact Halo Objects – Typical run-of-the-mill Baryonic Matter wrapped up in Brown Dwarf Stars, or small, dense chunks of Heavy Elements.
(I have but one question here. Did they come up with the acronym first, then do a quick fill-in?)
WIMPs – Weakly Interacting Massive Particles – Non-Baryonic Matter that is much more exotic than your basic off-the-rack Baryonic Matter.
(I think it’s quite fitting to finely give the more intelligent, civilised and refined kids some support. Who wants to be your average Baryonic type when you can be….EXOTIC?)
Neutralinos – Massive, hypothetical particles heavier and slower than neutrinos, are the foremost candidate for Dark, (Non-Baryonic) Matter, though they have yet to be spotted.
(Anyone spotting a Neutralino, please call the number shown: +44 (0) 888-555-NEUT. Operators are standing by.)
Some final thoughts:
If outer space is indeed sizzling with this massive quantity of Dark Energy, (We’ll avoid the Dark Matter for the moment) could this really, as I speculated above, be harnessed? Could we tap this energy and use it to power our cities? Provide the necessary energy for manufacturing, communications and transportation?
Could we use it for extended space flights? For colonies on other planets?
Could this truly be the discovery of all discoveries – changing the way we live, travel, explore, and entertain?
Imagine a world, or worlds, where your surface and flying vehicles, in whatever form they may take, simply pull energy from the space around them – convert it into kinetic, electric energy, thus transporting you indefinitely. (Elon Musk, over at TESLA Motors, will be salivating all over this post when he – wait, I hear the phone now – Elon? What – patented? No, not ye…. Elon? Mr Musk…?)
To sum up:
Clearly, there lies great potential in Dark Energy / Matter for the scientist, the human race, and more importantly, the reader and writer of Science Fiction.
If this elusive Aether, as the Greeks called it, is real and one day verified, everything we observe, touch, or know could change. Personally, I feel satisfied with my earlier hypothesis that Dark Energy / Matter and Electromagnetism are one and the same. I also believe wavelengths of this energy spectrum exist which we’ve yet observed, but will in the future.
I’ve specifically enjoyed writing this issue of my PLOT DEVICES FOR SCI-FI / FANTASY READERS AND WRITERS, and hope you’ve been at least modestly, if not entirely, enriched, intrigued and entertained.
If my work pleases you, consider sharing this with your networking pals and maybe picking up one of my six recently published novels:
‘Love in the Time of Apocalypse’ (Published – June 2017)
‘Alina’ (Published – May 2017)
‘Never a Sun Rises’ (Published – April 2017)
‘Fractured Horizons: A Time Travel Odyssey’ (Published – Jan 2017)
‘…but then, why Mars really?’ (Published – Dec 2016)
‘AHNN’ (Published – Oct 2016)
T.E. Mark is a Science Writer, Author, Language Teacher and Violinist. He has written novels for Young and Adult Readers and continues to write science articles for national and international magazines.