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Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

By Lisa Randall
19-minute read
Audio available
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (2015) takes a close look at the remarkable interconnections between Earth and the universe around it. These blinks explain how dark matter, the invisible stuff that makes up most of the universe, relates to the mass extinctions of the past and to the comets that might one day bring about another.

  • Scientists and students of science
  • Anyone interested in how the dinosaurs became extinct
  • People curious about Earth’s early history

Lisa Randall is a science professor at Harvard University specializing in cosmology and theoretical particle physics. In 2007, she was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” and is the author of other books including Warped Passages.

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Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

By Lisa Randall
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
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Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall
Synopsis

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs (2015) takes a close look at the remarkable interconnections between Earth and the universe around it. These blinks explain how dark matter, the invisible stuff that makes up most of the universe, relates to the mass extinctions of the past and to the comets that might one day bring about another.

Key idea 1 of 12

We might not be able to see dark matter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand it.

Has anyone ever told you, “I’ll believe it when I see it?”

It’s fine to want tangible evidence of something. But this leaves us on shaky ground when it comes to dark matter; even though it’s all around you, you can’t see it.

In fact, at this very moment, billions of particles of dark matter are moving through you. You can’t perceive them visually because dark matter doesn’t interact with light. Humans also can’t touch or sense dark matter in other ways because it doesn’t have electromagnetic interactions – at least not that science has been able to discover so far.

So, while it’s uncertain what type of particles compose dark matter, it’s clear that they’re not the typical atoms or elemental particles that humans are familiar with and which we can see.

In this way, dark matter is a bit like the microscopic world of bacteria that live all around us. We can’t see bacteria, but they’re essential to our healthy functioning. What’s more astounding is that this invisible dark matter makes up 85 percent of all the matter in the universe!

How do we know?

Well, dark matter can be detected through its interactions with gravity.

Everything in the universe is in constant motion, and the rate at which objects like planets and stars move depends in large part on the gravitational pull of massive objects like the sun.

In the 1930s, scientist Fritz Zwicky was following the velocity of stars and galaxies when he noticed that their visible mass wasn’t enough to account for the gravitational pull being exerted. This led him to the conclusion that there must be matter that we can’t see – he called it dunkle Materie, or “dark matter.”

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