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Dark Matter--should We Believe In It?

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Posted by Daniel Johnson on October 19, 2002 16:45:40 UTC

Based upon the motions of visible matter, it is widely asserted that ordinary visible matter must make up only a minority of all matter, and that there must be vast quantities of other matter that interacts with visible matter only through gravity, or only through gravity plus much weaker forces. Otherwise we are unable to explain the motions of galaxies and galactic clusters.
We seem to understand gravity well in all testable circumstances, but on galactic scales where accelerations are measured in nanogravities or femtogravities, we cannot yet devise adequate tests for motion at ordinary (sublight) speeds. So my question is this: Which of the following two assertions is simpler, and therefore more scientifically valid?
1) There exists a vast amount of unseen matter, passing through us perhaps at every instant, obeying the laws of gravity and motion, but otherwise obeying completely unknown laws. The dark-matter equivalents of electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force are simply unknown, but such dark matter must exist because we understand gravity so very well.
2) We don't understand gravity at femto-meter-per-second accelerations and sublight speeds. There is no unknown set of physical laws governing an unknown set of forces and and unknown type of matter--we just have an imperfect understanding of gravity.
Hmmmmm. ----Daniel

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