What the blackness in space is

Failure of the Hubble telescope

 If everybody had just left the scope alone, they’d at least have the theory to fall back on.
  • If everybody had just left the scope alone, they’d at least have the theory to fall back on.
  • Image by Rick Geary

“MISCELLANEOUS ELOQUENCE: University of Washington astrophysicist Dr. Bruce H. Magon, quoted by The New York Times on the continuing inability of science to measure or infer what the ‘blackness’ in space is, even though, by its properties, they know it must be matter: ‘It’s a fairly embarrassing situation to admit that we can’t find 90 percent of the universe.’ ” Dear Matthew Alice: What did you do with it? — Nameless, downtown

Huh? Me? Why’s it have to be me? The Matthew Alice Select Subcommittee on Morality, Ethics, and Public Displays of Idiotic Behavior is looking into this recent outbreak of Matt-bashing, and your newspaper clipping and note are going right into the pile with the others. You’ve been warned. As for this lost-universe glitch, I don’t feel sorry for Bruce or any of his friends. If they had just left Hubble to cruise around squinting through its little astigmatic lenses, they wouldn’t be quite so deep in this cosmological fix. For a couple of decades, astronomers and others have been searching for the mass they claim must be out there, somewhere, to account for the shapes and motions of galaxies. The stars and gas clouds they’ve identified so far just won’t cut it. Lots of hopes were pinned on the Hubble telescope to spot jillions of red dwarfs (the menudo of astronomy— dim stars), which they suspected were the missing mass. But unless the dwarfs are a lot dimmer than anticipated, Hubble says they’re not there. If everybody had just left the scope alone, they’d at least have the theory to fall back on. Personally, I think we’ve just mislaid the universe. It’ll show up when we finally get around to cleaning out the garage.

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