back to article Far out: Dark matter bridges millions of light-years long spotted between galaxies

Astrophysicists have for the first time spotted filaments of dark matter forming bridges between galaxies tens of millions of light-years apart. Dark matter – the ghostly substance that is thought to make up about a quarter of our universe – is strangely hard to find. Some physicists believe dark matter is made up of weakly …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And yet it moves incorrectly.

  2. AustinTX
    Holmes

    The assumption that it's matter

    Note that all they know is that these are regions which exhibit naked gravity without detectable source. Since matter is associated with gravity, they call it "dark matter". It's just as likely that it's something that gravity does on it's own. My own pet theory is that it's a displaced gravity field caused by the matter pulled into black holes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The assumption that it's matter

      It's not a theory unless it fits into a framework of other observations, and "displaced gravity field" is on a par with "cosmic star goat" from that point of view.

      1. Steve the Cynic

        Re: The assumption that it's matter

        "It's not a theory unless it fits into a framework of other observations,"

        It *is* a theory - it explains (sort of, weakly, maybe) the observed phenomenon. It could use some more concrete manner of making predictions about other things we could observe, but it is a theory.

        Without that capacity for prediction, it isn't a scientific theory because it cannot be falsified. General Relativity is specific enough that we can use it to predict how far light will bend and in which direction, and we can then do things to see if that actually happens.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: The assumption that it's matter

          No.

          It's a hypothesis.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Headmaster

            Re: The assumption that it's matter - It's a hypothesis.

            Being excessively pedantic even by my usual standards, it's an hypothesis.

            Newton (who said he didn't make hypotheses) avoided the whole problem by writing in Latin which lacks definite and indefinite articles.

            1. tfb Silver badge

              Re: The assumption that it's matter - It's a hypothesis.

              It is 'an hypothesis' in some dialects of English, including the one you speak perhaps: almost certainly it is 'a hypothesis' in the dialects most commonly spoken now. Do you go to 'a hotel' or 'an hotel' for an example of another shift which is pretty much complete now (my grandfather would have gone to the latter, I go to the former).

      2. creepy gecko

        Re: The assumption that it's matter

        I was unaware of The Church Of The Cosmic Star Goat until I read that comment. [The internet is a wonderful thing.]

        I am now a true believer in the Cosmic Star Goat.

        1. Leslie Graham

          Re: The assumption that it's matter

          You blasphemers.The Cosmic Star Goat is a recent usurper.

          The one true God is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. May you be touched by His noodly appendage.

          http://spaghettimonster.com/church-of-the-flying-spaghetti-monster-founded/the-gospel-of-the-flying-spaghetti-monster/

          Repent.

      3. Chemical Bob

        Re: "cosmic star goat"

        What's with the quotation marks? The cosmic star goat is *real*, I play tennis with it every Saturday!

      4. KBeee
        Thumb Up

        Re: The assumption that it's matter

        mmmmmmmm... cosmic star goat curry....

      5. tfb Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: The assumption that it's matter

        It's not on a par with 'cosmic star goat': 'cosmic star goat' is much more plausible. Indeed I am reasonably sure that it explains pretty much everything, especially comments on The Register about 'displaced gravity fields'.

    2. Chemist

      Re: The assumption that it's matter

      "Since matter is associated with gravity,"

      BTW although this is often stated, in the Einstein field equations it's actually mass & energy that 'bends' spacetime AFAIK

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: The assumption that it's matter

        @Chemist

        it's actually mass & energy that 'bends' spacetime AFAIK

        Energy and mass are the same thing. Mass is (for want of a better or more scientific term) 'coalesced' or 'solidified' or 'concentrated' energy. They are different states of the same thing.

        E=mc^2 therefore m=E/(c^2).

        Therefore 1MJ of energy has 1000000/300000000^2 =1.11e-11 kg

        Therefore stating mass bends space time is the same as stating energy bends space time which is the same as stating energy and mass bend space time. Therefore it is sufficient to just say "mass bends spacetime" or "energy bends spacetime" as the one, by definition, implies the other.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The assumption that it's matter

      Actually, all they see are regions where light is distorted. They're assuming gravity warping space-time is the only cause, but there are other possibilities. Plasma refracts light, for instance.

      1. John H Woods

        Re: Plasma for instance...

        .... oh, no ... not that electric universe BS again! Weirdest conspiracy theory nutters going!

    4. Leslie Graham

      Re: The assumption that it's matter

      We are all very much looking forward to seeing your published results.

  3. datafabric
    Pint

    Good finding

    Not Friday yet but it's OK =>

  4. PaulVD
    Joke

    False false colours

    Surely the colour should be black where the density of dark matter is greatest?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: False false colours

      "Surely the colour should be black where the density of dark matter is greatest?"

      Transparent, surely? Black means energy is being absorbed which means that the substance is interacting with light. Dark matter is actually completely see-through. You can fire as many photons at it as you like but they will continue on their way even if very slightly deflected by gravity.

      But "completely transparent matter" doesn't look nearly as snappy on grant applications. Unless it's for imperial clothing.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: False false colours

      Octarene, anyone?

      Pint of scumble or screech, please landlord.

      1. John F***ing Stepp

        Re: False false colours

        One or two more frog pills should take care of it.

  5. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Alien

    Filaments forming a network?

    Or a Matrix?

    Or a Tholian web???

  6. Measurer

    Webs!!!

    Just don't wanna meet the spider that made them. You'd need one hell of a glass and bit of cardboard.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Webs!!!

      Giant alien spiders are no joke!

      Have you never played FTL?

    2. tfb Silver badge

      Re: Webs!!!

      It's the only thing the star goat is frightened of.

      1. Leslie Graham

        Re: Webs!!!

        "...It's the only thing the star goat is frightened of...."

        I think the Flying Spaghetti Monster could take Cosmic Star Goat in a square go.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For those of us that like science fiction what they are seeing could well be the results of commercial FTL travel in the empire.

  8. Mr_Eee
    Angel

    FSM?

    Surely this image is further proof of His noodly presence?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FSM?

      So, you see the galaxies as meatballs?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: FSM?

        Are you saying they are not meatballs? I'm shocked...

  9. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    Exhaust trails perhaps?

    I keep hoping that the explanation is that this imbalance we're seeing is the pollution left behind by the far more advanced species transport devices. We're just slow getting to the party.

    All that said, nice to see some data added to the pile so we can look at it in a different light.

    1. Random Handle

      Re: Exhaust trails perhaps?

      >I keep hoping that the explanation is that this imbalance we're seeing is the pollution left behind by the far more advanced species transport devices.

      Densely packed turtle coprolite? - can't help thinking this is research that would be better put on the backburner until more fundamental physics is addressed rather more locally.

      1. Bucky 2

        Re: Exhaust trails perhaps?

        They're tunnels of inertialess space, suitable for superluminal transportation. Some are natural. Some are artificial.

        Like the natural subspace corridors Voyager was using in the episode, "Dragon's Teeth."

    2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
      Joke

      Re: Exhaust trails perhaps?

      Chemtrails. In Spaaaaaaace.

  10. Tikimon Silver badge
    Devil

    It's the Dark Side, of course

    Isn't it obvious? Dark matter and energy are the physical manifestations of the Dark Side of the Force. The early Sith were drawn to Dark Matter and Energy, and shaped themselves and their methods after them. Thus the Sith always work from the shadows, making sure their influence is never seen, their power carefully hidden. It's taken this long to even suspect the presence of dark forces and the Sith, it's clearly working for them.

    Midichlorians on the other hand are needy little attention whores, you can sense them clean across the galaxy.

    1. Toni the terrible
      Facepalm

      Re: It's the Dark Side, of course

      And where are these midi-thingingies if so obvious? In a bottile of bleach?

  11. Draco
    Windows

    Had to look up what "Weak Lensing" is

    Normal lensing effects would only be visible if we could "walk" around the lens noting the changes. Or if the lens moves between us and the object of interest.

    Looking galaxy pairs 4.5 x 10^9 light years away seems to seems to preclude any possible use of one of those methods.

    So the scientists have come up with "weak lensing". Essentially (if I correctly understand),

    (1) we assume a uniformity across the galaxy pairs ("a spherical cow of uniform density") - except that they are not.

    (2) if we sample the pairs and average them out then any differences (variance / noise) will be statistically reduced, leaving us with nice clean galaxy pair data.

    (3) this nice clean galaxy pair data can them be compared against "real" galaxy pairs.

    (4) this comparison will result in a difference.

    (5) this difference will be attributed to gravitational lensing.

    I will admit the theory behind weak lensing seems solid. Nevertheless, it doesn't sit well with my gut feeling which is saying that if you manipulate enough data and are looking for something, however weak, you are going to find it.

    So if I had to ask a question (or two) about this, it would be: "Why couldn't the natural gravity between a pair of galaxies be responsible for the artefact observed instead of invoking a filament of dark matter?" And "Why should there be filaments of dark matter bridging galaxies?"

    Hobo icon because I am not feeling terribly smart about all this.

    1. YourNameHere

      Re: Had to look up what "Weak Lensing" is

      Read the paper, one section is dedicated to how to remove that impact. Its light reading...

  12. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    Neurons, to me

    Clusters of complexity, which are energy sources, connected with long 'filaments'? Am I looking at brain cells, neurons, synapses, etc? Are we living inside a giant brain?

    1. Bucky 2

      Re: Neurons, to me

      A giant computer, actually. Looking for the question. The answer to which is 42.

      1. mosw

        Re: Neurons, to me

        "The answer to which is 42."

        Don't say that out loud around the mice! If they know you have the answer they may stop the program.

        1. Chemist

          Re: Neurons, to me

          "Don't say that out loud around the mice! If they know you have the answer they may stop the program."

          The mice knew the answer - they didn't know the question !

          (Thanks Douglas)

    2. Toni the terrible

      Re: Neurons, to me

      Boltzmann brain?

  13. danR2
    Holmes

    All impossibilities been explored?

    They've found something (pretty) dark that bends light paths. Is it filaments of helium? neutral hydrogen? Has it been mapped at 21 cm and nothing found? Just asking.

    "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?" -Holmes

    1. danR2

      postscript

      Lyman far-UV absorption lines?

    2. mosw

      Re: All impossibilities been explored?

      "All impossibilities been explored?"

      No.

      I would assume their instruments and funding allowed them to conduct a very specific set of measurements that was motivated by some dark matter hypothesis. Others with access to different instruments and funding can follow up if they think it is worth investigating and try and identify what that matter is.

      Until then it seems there is some matter that exists between the galaxies that they were otherwise not able to "see", aka dark matter.

  14. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

    Dark Matter? What about a worm hole?

    Wouldn't a worm hole have the same indicators?

    1. danR2

      Re: Dark Matter? What about a worm hole?

      A worm-hole is a tunnel of space-time itself, not a structure with extension through space. Distant from a worm-hole, all we (would) see is the hole part, a three dimensional analog akin to the hole you would plug a vacuum hose into in the wall for a central vacuum system. All the plumbing is hidden from view.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: Dark Matter? What about a worm hole?

        I'm not so sure about that.

        I mean you're 'bending' space.

        You may not see it, but you would be able to detect some of the effects of it, right?

  15. perrenod

    Dark matter or dark gravity

    A significant observational achievement. It would have been interesting if in addition to their dark matter model, they had also applied the emergent gravity style model. A recent test with weak gravitational lensing using 33,000 galaxies compared both and found similar results. But emergent gravity (Erik Verlinde, additional gravity over and above Newton/GR at low accelerations due to dark energy - ordinary matter entanglement entropy interaction) could reproduce the results with fewer parameters.

    More on emergent gravity here: https://darkmatterdarkenergy.com/2016/12/30/emergent-gravity-verlindes-proposal/ includes links to Verlinde's paper and the Brouwer et al. weak lensing study.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These Filments

    May only be visible when the Navigator invokes them to bend space and time for travel to Aracus

    The Guild are slipping

  17. Tcat
    Alert

    I think I would need DMT to get the concept.

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