This Galaxy Has No “Need” For Dark Matter!

This diffuse galaxy, NGC 1052-DF2, has no “need” for dark matter.

Dark matter is one of those things that scientists use to make up for an observation which is inconsistent with the known laws of physics. When astronomers look at the motion of stars in a galaxy, they can use Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation to estimate how much mass must be in the galaxy to produce the motion that is observed. However, they can also use the amount of light they see coming from the galaxy to estimate how much mass is there. In general, those two masses don’t agree. The motion of the stars indicates significantly more mass than the light coming from the galaxy.

That’s where dark matter comes in. Since the matter we can see using the light that comes from a galaxy doesn’t account for the motion of the stars within the galaxy, there must be a lot of matter that is too dark to see. But if it’s too dark to see, it must be some strange type of matter that is fundamentally different from the matter we have studied here on earth. Many experiments have been done trying to directly observe dark matter, but so far, they have come up empty. Thus, if dark matter exists, its nature is a complete mystery to us. This is frustrating, since astrophysicists think that about 80% of the mass in the universe comes from dark matter!

Some scientists (I count myself among them) are hesitant to accept that about 80% of the universe’s mass is made up of something we can’t detect, so they look for alternate explanations. One group suggests that on very large scales, Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation is slightly different from what it is here on earth. These physicists suggest a modified version of the law, which they call Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND). If you accept their modification, the need for dark matter goes away. Another scientist suggests that if you actually apply Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation properly (taking into account that there are multiple bodies exerting gravitational force on all the other bodies and that those bodies are in constant motion), you need very little (if any) dark matter to understand why the stars move so quickly in galaxies.

Well, these three competing ideas (dark matter, MOND, and multiple-body analysis) have just been presented with a means by which they can distinguish themselves: a diffuse galaxy charmingly named NGC 1052-DF2, which is pictured above. This is the first discovered galaxy for which the mass calculated from the motion of the stars is pretty much equal to the mass calculated from the light that we see. Thus, there is no “need” for dark matter in this galaxy.

Now this galaxy is anything but a run-of-the-mill collection of stars. Most galaxies have a noticeable central region. This one doesn’t. Most galaxies have dense enough stars that there are portions through which you cannot see. This galaxy is completely see-through. Most galaxies have tight clusters of stars that orbit the outer parts of the galaxy. While this one has those clusters, they are about twice as large as the clusters seen in other galaxies. Most galaxies show evidence of a central black hole. This one doesn’t. Finally, it is part of a group of galaxies that is dominated by a very large, active galaxy known as NGC 1052. It’s possible that all these features somehow explain the apparent lack of need for dark matter.

I really hope the group promoting MOND and the scientist promoting a multiple-body solution to star motion in galaxies turn their attention to this new discovery. While I am happy to believe in dark matter if there is strong evidence for it, right now, I am inclined to believe there is an alternate solution to the “missing mass” problem in galaxies. Hopefully, further analysis of this galaxy will help us find out.

A New Feature in the Human Body Has Been Discovered!

Schematic of the newly-found human anatomical feature (Illustration by Jill Gregory licenced under CC-BY-ND – click for more information)

In one of my online biology classes last week, a student asked if I had any comments on the new organ that was just discovered in the human body. I didn’t have any comments, because I didn’t know anything about it. I expressed a lot of skepticism, saying that with all the imaging techniques available to scientists, it’s hard to imagine that an organ in the human body has been missed. However, I promised the student I would look into it, and while I hesitate to call it a new organ, it turns out that a new feature of the human body has most certainly been discovered!

You can read about it in the open-access article published by Scientific Reports. As shown in the illustration above, the researchers found that wherever tissues are stretched or compressed (like the lungs or even the intestines), there is a network of fluid-filled spaces underneath. In the illustration above, think of the part labeled “Mucosa” as the lining of an organ. Underneath that lining, there is a mesh of collagen proteins and elastin proteins (elastin is a part of the “collagen bundle” in the illustration). Those proteins have specific cells attached to them that react to CD34, a stain used to highlight a feature of certain cells when they are viewed under a microscope. In between this mesh of proteins and cells, the spaces are filled with fluid.

For a long time, anatomists have understood that there is a lot of fluid in between the cells of an organism. It is called “interstitial fluid,” and it makes up about 16% of the human body’s weight. It bathes the cells, keeping their environment reasonably constant and serving as way that cells can exchange chemicals with the rest of the body. It comes from the blood, and then it drains into the lymphatic system, where it is cleaned and returned to the blood. So the fluid found in those spaces is not new. The fact that the fluid is found in a mesh of proteins and cells and forms the sponge-like structure illustrated above was completely unknown up to this point.

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NASA’s Study Indicates Space Changes GENE EXPRESSION, not GENES!

Identical twin astronauts, Scott Kelly (right) and Mark Kelly (left).

Newsweek headlined its article, “Scott Kelly: NASA Study Confirms Astronaut’s DNA Actually Changed in Space.” The article says:

After landing, 93 percent of Scott Kelly’s genes returned to normal, the researchers found. The altered 7 percent, however, could indicate long-term changes in genes connected to the immune system, DNA repair, bone formation networks, oxygen deprivation and elevated carbon dioxide levels.

The Telegraph headline reads, “Nasa astronaut twins Scott and Mark Kelly no longer genetically identical after space trip.” The article states:

But new findings by Nasa have found that life away from planet Earth has exacted a surprising toll. The pair are no longer genetically identical twins.

Please understand that both of these articles are doing what is typical of the modern media when it comes to science. They are taking results that are really, really interesting, and they are hyping the results to the point where they are not telling the truth anymore. NASA did do a wonderful experiment on the genetic effects of being in space a long time, and while the results are quite remarkable, they don’t indicate that space changes a person’s genes. They indicate that space changes the expression of certain genes, and for some, that change is remarkably long-lived.

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Failed Predictions of Climate Alarmists

Global Temperature over time as measured by satellites. (click for credit and source)

In 1988, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the greenhouse effect and global climate change (transcript here, digitized version here). In that hearing, Dr. Michael Oppenheimer (atmospheric physicist and senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund) testified about the impending doom that were are all facing if we don’t immediately curtail our greenhouse gas emissions. He said, in part:

Certain gases which occur in the atmosphere in small amounts are growing rapidly in concentration due to human activities related to industry and agriculture. Primary among these is carbon dioxide, a product of coal, oil, and natural gas combustion. These “greenhouse gases” trap heat radiating from the surface of the earth which would normally escape into space, resulting in a warming of the surface. This increase in global temperature causes a concomitant rise in global sea level as ocean water expands and land ice melts. As long as the amounts of greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere, this process will continue unabated. There will be no winners in this situation, only a globe full of losers. Today’s beneficiaries of change will be tomorrow’s victims as the changing climate rolls past them like a wave that first sweeps you up, then drops you in the trough behind it. The very concept of conservation does not exist in a world which may change so fast that ecosystems, which are slow to adjust, will wither and die. The technical findings of the Villach-Bellagio workshops include: Global mean temperature will likely rise at about 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit per decade and sea level at about 2.5 inches per decade over the next century. These rates are 3 to 6 times recent historical rates. (emphasis mine)

Well, this prediction was made 30 years ago. That’s about one-third of the timescale that he is discussing (“over the next century”). Nevertheless, we don’t see any hint that his predictions are coming true. Examine the image at the top of the post. It shows the latest satellite-measured global temperatures, which have been recorded since 1979. Is there any indication that rate at which global temperature is rising has increased since 1988? No. In fact, you could easily argue that the rate of global temperature increase was higher from 1988 to 1998 that it has been since 1998. There even seems to have been a “pause” in temperature increase from 2002 to 2015.

What of his prediction that the rate of sea level rise would increase? Well satellites have been measuring that for a while, too. Here is what they have seen since 1993:

Satellite-measured sea levels since 1993. (click for source and credit)

Notice that the rate of sea level rise is 2.8 millimeters per year (1.1 inches per decade), less than half of what Dr. Oppenheimer predicted. More importantly, notice that the rate of increase has been pretty constant, despite the fact that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere rose significantly during that same time period.

Now, of course, these are relatively short time periods, so it’s always possible that there are some surprises ahead. However, given the fact that nearly one-third of the time that Dr. Oppenheimer was discussing has already passed, we can say that there are certainly no indications that his predictions have any chance of coming true.

Why am I sharing this with my readers? For two reasons. First, a scientific theory is judged by the success of its predictions. Right now, the theory that is guiding most climate alarmists has failed in its predictions (see here, here, and here). That should tell you something about its soundness. Second, the climate alarmists will continue to make dire predictions, regardless of what the data say. It is important for people to learn how wrong their previous predictions have been.

When Hysteria is More Important than Science

This is a picture of the Maldives cabinet meeting that took place on October 17th, 2009. (click for credit)

Sea levels have been rising since the early 1800s, and while satellites have only been measuring them since 1992, satellite measurements indicate that they have been rising at a fairly constant rate of 2.8 millimeters per year. This is concerning to many people, especially the ones who live in countries like the Republic of Maldives, which is, on average, only 1.5 meters above sea level. In fact, the country is so concerned about the rising seas that in 2009, the nation’s cabinet held a meeting underwater, where they signed a document calling on all countries to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. After all, it is thought that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere warm the planet, which in turn causes sea levels to rise. If sea levels rise too much, the Republic of Maldives will be lost.

Now, of course, that kind of reasoning makes sense, but anyone who studies science should understand that things which make sense are not necessarily true. A lot of Aristotle’s notions (such as the idea that objects prefer to stay at rest) made sense, but science has demonstrated them to be false. In the same way, a lot of our modern theories (like quantum mechanics and relativity) make little sense, but experiments strongly support their conclusions (see here and here, for example).

Rather than giving into the hysteria, then, it is best to see what the data indicate. Interestingly enough, the data say that while the idea that rising sea levels will destroy countries like the Republic of Maldives makes sense, it is almost certainly not true. I first wrote about this three years ago, when a group of researchers decided to study some of the islands around the Funafuti Atoll, which holds the island nation of Tuvalu. They found that contrary to the hysteria, the majority of the islands they studied have grown since 1897, leading to a net increase in the amount of land available. Well, the same research group has completed a more extensive study, which confirms their previous conclusion.

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My New Elementary Science Series and My New Chemistry Course Win Awards!

I wanted to share this with my readers: Practical Homeschooling has announced that my elementary series was awarded first place in the Elementary Science category of their 2018 Reader AwardsTM. This is the second year in a row that my elementary courses were given this honor. Here is what one homeschooling parent had to say about the series:

We studied Dr. Wile’s first book, ‘Science in the Beginning’, and we loved it. But then I got a little apprehensive about the next ones, because like you say, they were written with a different approach. I tried a different curriculum, with a more traditional sequence, and we were bored! One semester was enough. Since then we have done all four books, and we started with the 5th one this school year. What we love the most is that the lessons teach ONE concept, and the experiment, like you mentioned, cements that concept. I will not look into more Science curricula ever.

In addition, my new high school chemistry course was given the same honor! The course has been available for less than three years, and I am thrilled that it has already become popular enough to win over the readers of Practical Homeschooling. Of course, no honor can be as thrilling as receiving these kinds of emails from students:

Hi! I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed Discovering Design With Chemistry. I am a tenth-grade homeschooled student, and I really learned so much through this book. After taking this course, I know I will definitely take Advanced Chemistry in my senior year, and I will seriously consider studying chemistry in college as well. I found chemistry to be enjoyable and exciting through your work! Thank you!

If you are wondering how my new chemistry course differs from Apologia’s current chemistry course, you might want to read this comparison from a homeschooled student and her mother.

I want to thank Practical Homeschooling and its readers for these honors. I am happy to know that my courses are making home science education easier and more enjoyable!

Click here to learn more about my science courses.

Possible Physical Evidence of the Prophet Isaiah

King Hezekiah on his sickbed, as described in 2 Kings 20:1-11 (click for credit)

In 2 Kings 18-20, Isaiah 36-39, and 2 Chronicles 29-32, the Bible discusses the reign of King Hezekiah, who had several interactions with the prophet Isaiah. For example, the woodcutting shown above depicts 2 Kings 20:1-11. The king is dying, but the Lord hears his prayer and Isaiah tells him he will be healed. The King asks for a sign, and Isaiah causes a shadow to move in the direction opposite of the direction the sun would make it move.

Several extraBiblical references to King Hezekiah have been found, including a bulla (clay seal impression) bearing the phrase, “Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.” However, there are no known extraBiblical references to the prophet Isaiah, at least not until now. While it is by no means certain, there is good archaeological evidence that a bulla from the prophet Isaiah has been found in the same area.

As discussed in Biblical Archaeology Review, Eilat Mazar (who also discovered King Hezekiah’s bulla) reports finding several other bullae in the same excavation. One bulla, found only 10 feet from King Hezekiah’s bulla, might very well belong to the prophet Isaiah. As Mazar writes:

Alongside the bullae of Hezekiah and the Bes family, 22 additional bullae with Hebrew names were found. Among these is the bulla of “Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?].” The obvious initial translation, as surprising as it might seem, suggests that this belonged to the prophet Isaiah.

It would make sense to find a bulla from Isaiah in the same excavation as bullae from King Hezekiah, but the conclusion is not ironclad. The name is pretty clear, but the last part, “Nvy[?],” is not. According to Mazar, the last part should signify the word “prophet,” but only if there is an aleph (’) at the end (where she put “[?]”). As she says:

Whether or not the aleph was added at the end of the lower register is speculative, as meticulous examinations of that damaged part of the bulla could not identify any remnants of additional letters.

So this bulla might just belong to a person named Isaiah who was not a prophet. However, given the archaeological context of the find, as well as the damaged nature of the artifact, there is at least a strong possibility that it represents the first extraBiblical evidence for the prophet Isaiah.

Facts and Truth

Me as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha.

This past weekend I did something I have been dreaming about for more than 30 years. I portrayed the lead role in the classic musical Man of LaMancha. It was a wonderful experience. The cast was incredibly talented, and the production was both unique and beautiful. All the performances were sold out, and the audiences truly enjoyed the experience. I cannot express how thankful I am to The Alley Theatre for its support and its love of the arts.

As any serious art should do, the musical tackles a big question: How should we approach the world in which we live? On one side, there is the character Dr. Sanson Carassco, who says that we must face the world as it is. On the other side, there is Don Quixote, who says we should face the world as it ought to be. For example, Don Quixote meets a prostitute named Aldonza. However, he sees and treats her as a virtuous lady he calls “Dulcinea.”

In his insightful program notes, our director said this:

The simple, deconstructed storyline of LAMANCHA can be imagined as DON QUIXOTE standing at one end of a line. He is the dreamer and the crusader for change. On the other end of the line is DR. CARASSCO, the representative of “things as they are.” Walking from one to the other, in journey we should all take, is ALDONZA. She begins as “who she is” and ends as “who she should be and could be.”

While these notes give you the “big picture” about the show’s message, I want to discuss a side issue that centers around one of my favorite lines. When I first started rehearsing, I said the line one way, but our ever-patient director encouraged me to re-examine how Don Quixote would actually say it, and I ended up changing the delivery significantly.

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Physicist and Homeschooling Pioneer Will be Speaking at Two Homeschooling Conferences

Dr. Helen Jackson, who will be speaking at two of the Great Homeschool Conventions this year.

Suppose you are systems engineer at NASA. Successfully getting to this point, you meet and marry a wonderful man and eventually have two more children (after escaping a previous marriage plagued with domestic abuse). You continue in your career while you and your spouse raise your children. The older children have already started school. However, suppose one of your children isn’t getting what he should from his education. You switch from public school to a Christian school, but it makes no difference. What do you do then?

When Helen Jackson was faced with this problem, she prayed about it and was led to quit her job at NASA and homeschool her children full time. While she “put her career on hold” to educate her children, she didn’t end it altogether. As the children got older, she started doing some part-time programming work and other forms of work like consulting. From there she phased back into engineering work. Once all the children had completed high school, eventually, after a few twists and turns, she got her Ph.D. from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Nowadays, she is a research physicist for Battelle, a science and technology research company. She is currently developing software that can interpret X-ray images to look for objects that might represent a security threat. This line of research is possible because of the work of her late husband, who co-invented the X-ray spectrometer, which is a cornerstone in so much of imaging technology.

I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Jackson a few days ago, because she will be speaking at the Midwest Homeschool Convention and the California Homeschool Convention this year. I found her warm, engaging, exceedingly intelligent, and most importantly, profoundly wise. I learned a lot from the interview, and if you are able to attend, I strongly encourage you to go to one of the conventions and listen to her talks.

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