The Best Evidence for Dark Matter & the Uncertainty Therein


Seeing the invisible: This false-color image shows giant blobs of dark matter left inside galaxy cluster Abell 520 after collisions between many galaxies there. Dark matter can be inferred by its gravitational effects on nearby light rays.NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis), and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University)

If I told you that I was 99.81 percent certain I had made a big discovery, you might suggest it was time to break out the champagne. If I said the discovery resolved one of the biggest outstanding problems in science and would probably let me punch a ticket to Stockholm to pick up a Nobel Prize, you might suggest ordering a case of the best champagne I could find, and start planning out my acceptance speech. After all, 99.81 percent certainty is pretty good; it’s well above 95 percent, the bar used for “statistical significance” in most fields of research. 

But most physicists would tell me to hold off on the bubbly until I got rid of a bit more of that remaining .19 percent uncertainty. How much more? Well, the simple answer would be, “almost all of it.” 

Dark matter is an enigmatic substance that accounts for most of the universe’s mass and has shaped its entire history—we quite literally wouldn’t

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