A few weeks ago the subject of Dark Matter came up in a conversation among people who are much more intelligent than I am. I admitted that I didn’t understand what Dark Matter is and, because they’re very kind people, they assured me that I shouldn’t worry because no one knows. (I’ve wormed my way into the company of these people in the hope that their genius and creativity will rub off on me. Results pending.)
This weekend I took two of my grandchildren to the planetarium to see the show “Dark Universe.” I was excited to learn what science knows of this mysterious Dark component. Landon, who is eight, was entranced. However, I sat next to Nola who is six and had many burning questions: “Is that really the sky?” “Can we go back to the American Doll store?” “What are we going to have for lunch?” She complained that her neck hurt, her brother woke her up by pulling her hair, and she didn’t want to eat any more of the chicken soup I’d made for their visit. So I missed a bit of the lecture.
What I did learn was that Neil DeGrasse Tyson can express the most shocking concepts with complete dispassion. Examples: It’s Dark Energy that holds the universe together even though we don’t know how or what it is. Scientists have mapped the stars despite the fact that that what they’re seeing is distorted by gravitational lenses. And the ultimate appalling fact: the universe is expanding in an increasingly rapid rate. (This is one thing I can actually feel as I find it harder and harder to keep up.)
Various maps were projected on the ceiling in order to illustrate the prominence of Dark Matter and our place in the universe. Nola was not impressed. She prefers the “map” that came with a box of chocolates given to me the day before, a map that explains what’s in the chocolates without actually having to bite into them. (ie. the square with a spiral imprint is white chocolate with spicy cinnamon ganache, not a Nola recommendation)
Simple conclusion: Dark Matter and Dark Energy may be what holds the universe together but dark chocolate is infinitely easier to understand. Nola is not a fan of darkness in general (with the exception of chocolate). She chooses to defuse it with whimsical nightlights. Her universe is expanding rapidly but so far she is enjoying the ride.
I may never understand the concepts Neil DeGrasse Tyson is trying to explain, nor the dark turn the world has taken lately, as displayed in the daily bombardment of disheartening events. But I’m pleased to report that there are people and chocolate to provide light and the occasional whimsey in my corner of the universe.