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Aussie Student Finds Universe's "Missing Mass"

June 1, 2011

A 22-year-old Australian university student has solved a problem which has puzzled astrophysicists for decades, discovering part of the so-called "missing mass" of the universe during her summer break.

Science News from yahoo.com on May 27, 2011.

<I updated this article on June 6 - all additions are in this brown italic text.>


It was an interesting story - how a 22 year old can find something that PhD astrophysicists have been looking for - finding it over her summer break while others presumably smarter and certainly more experienced than her had been searching "for decades".


This raises an interesting question. If they were searching for decades - does that mean it was only recently "lost" - just recently went missing, whereas it had previously been right where it should have been?

It's location must have been known at some time, since one of the quotes from an astrophysicist at the university (Dr. Kevin Pimbblet) was -

"We don't know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that's what Amelia found."


So that you don't worry about the egos of those more experienced and presumably smarter people who had been searching for decades - here's another quote -

Pimbblet said astrophysicists had known about the "missing" mass for the past two decades, but the technology needed to pinpoint its location had only become available in recent years.


That's a great relief - on at least a couple counts.

For one - no need to worry about an upstart student showing up the professors and others before her that had spent years of their lives doing something she did over a summer break.

For another - it seems likely that this "mass" has been missing for a long time - but we only recently were able to even tell that it wasn't there any more. Or more properly - that it wasn't where it was supposed to be.


Now that we've straightened that out - let's ask a few more questions.


Wasn't where it was supposed to be - according to who?

If it was just in the "wrong" place -- was it really missing -- or just mis-placed
and not mis-sing?

Or were they maybe wrong about where it was supposed to be - and it wasn't really misplaced or missing at all - but was really right where it belonged all the time - and they just didn't know where it belonged?


Does any of this really matter?

At the end of the article, there is another exchange with Dr. Pimbblett -

Pimbblet admitted the discovery was primarily academic, but he said previous physics research had led to the development of diverse other technologies.


"Whenever I speak to people who have influence, politicians and so on, they sometimes ask me 'Why should I invest in physics pure research?'. And I sometimes say to them: 'Do you use a mobile phone? Some of that technology came about by black hole research'.


"The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate."


OK - even he says it was pretty much an academic exercise - meaning it has little to no practical value.

But - he goes on to say that other "pure" research activities have had results that have proved useful.

And the best line of all -

"The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate."


Let's go back and look at this one more time.


Just because they didn't know where the mass was - doesn't mean it was missing - or misplaced. It just means they didn't know where it was.

Even having "found" it - they still don't know how it got there - or why it's where it is.

Now that they have "found" it - I'm sure they will study it some more - and learn some more.


But - could they have learned even more?

Is there in fact a practical outcome that could / should have come from what they discovered?

I don't think that it's a strictly academic exercise at all.


If we look at the Old Testament - we see that God had a relationship with Adam and Eve that was unlike any since then. After they got booted from the Garden of Eden - it was never the same again.

As the Hebrews / Israelites went further and further from God - that relationship got more and more strained and distant. By the end of the OT - there weren't even any prophets for a long time.

Then Jesus arrives - things can get better again.

But we turn away from Jesus too.

And the Book of Revelation says that in the end - things will get much worse than anyone can even imagine and still people will not accept Him.


And yet - God would not leave us with no hope.

At the very end of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says the following -

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Here's a question - would Jesus have left us with no way to accomplish this Great Commission - or would He have left us with all sorts of ways to do it?

I submit to you that it is the latter - He'd give us all sorts of ways to make disciples of people. Part of that would include showing that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." is absolutely true.


At this point - I have to add some explanation, since my wife read this and asked me what I was trying to say. Like - what does studying the science behind missing mass have to do with people's relationship with God going from the OT days up to the present? And what does the Great Commission have to do with any of it?

I think - quite a bit - and hopefully have done a better job of saying it this time.

When Adam and Eve literally walked in the Garden of Eden with God - they could actually talk to Him. As we got further and further separated from God - obviously that communication channel isn't what it used to be. By the end of the OT - God wasn't even sending prophets to the people any more. Then Jesus arrives on earth. People can literally talk to God again - for a little while - until He was crucified. Then we get no more opportunity to talk to God until either the Second Coming of Jesus - or until we die. (What happens when we die will either be an invite to enter Heaven - or the final judgment - but my point here is that there will be no direct chance to talk to God again like Adam & Eve did, until that time.)

So - we get this great commission - to make disciples of the world.
But - we don't get to talk to God - at least not like Adam & Eve did - and there aren't any more prophets being born. Are we left on our own with the Bible to prove the Bible is the Truth - or has God left us other things to prove His existence - to prove that God has all authority in Heaven and on earth?

What I'm saying is that God hasn't left us with no evidence other than the Bible. While the Bible alone can be sufficient - many of us are like Thomas - who needed more proof.

And that's where science can come in - it can be one of those other things that God has left us with to help us see that He does exist.

"The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate."

How mind blowing is this - to think that so much of the work of scientists who are out to prove that universe and everything in it is just random accidents / survival of the fittest / spontaneous events with no direction - what this really does is to prove exactly the opposite. It's too orderly to be just random accidents - and how can there be "laws of nature" if it's all random. If it's survival of the fittest - where are all the unfit that didn't survive - why aren't there fossils and other evidence of all the failures? And if it's all spontaneous with no direction - why is there so much similarity to everything and how come the laws of physics apply everywhere, as opposed to being different, even when the environments under study are otherwise absolutely identical? The fact that there is so much order screams for direction!

What if the ultimate "knock-on effect" that was "difficult to anticipate" is that science itself actually proves the existence of the very God that it was so bent on disproving?

In that case -

Think about what we could learn from science.

Even from this one example - this "lost mass" - that we apparently know little to nothing about - and yet have finally determined that it does exist - not where we expected it, but it does exist - we believe it has a purpose, which is proven by the fact that we're going to study it more to find out what that purpose is - but those who "found" it come to the conclusion that it was an academic exercise with no practical outcomes.


No practical outcomes?

Maybe no "practical" outcomes as far as what they were trying to prove - but what about the very practical outcomes that they actually did come up with?

How about the outcome that we don't know anything compared to what there is to know?

How about the outcome that the more we learn - the more we realize how little we actually know?

How about the outcome that things continue to work - even (or is it especially?) without us being involved in them?

How about the outcome that says all of this is way too orderly to have been random?

How about the outcome of proving that Someone is in charge out there?

How about the outcome that says God must exist?

How about the outcome that says God has all the authority in heaven and on earth

- and that He gave it to Jesus?

How about the outcome that says we can and should use these things to help bring those who "discover" them and study them to God - to be disciples to them - and to have them be used by God as disciples to others?


How's that for some practical outcomes?


And then there this -

We go to universities to learn about things we're interested in. For Amelia - that was a university in Australia with some really good astrophysicists. It would seem she learned a lot - from a strictly scientific point of view - at least from the view that we humans have from the limited knowledge that we possess. Something in us wants to learn more.

What if we went to U of H - the University of Heaven?

If you look up the word university at www.dictionary.com, the definition starts off with

an institution of learning of the highest level

What could be a higher level than Heaven?

Then we can live forever with the One who created all these things we are trying to learn about.

And - oh by the way - how about God as the ultimate teacher?

Want to learn more about all of this - who better to learn from? There won't be any missing mass - because He knows where it is - because it's right where He wants it - doing exactly what He wants it to do.

And He's only got one admission requirement to His "place" - belief in Him and and His gift to us in the person of Jesus.

If you're interested in science - you already are searching for answers. Why not go beyond the straight scientific facts that you are learning - think about the hard questions - little words - like "how" and "why" - and find the big answer that is also a little word - also with three letters?

Hope to see you in class...