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Monday, August 21, 2006

The Dark Matter is the Raisins

Few things beat the Discovery Channel for public science. They have some amazing writers and teachers writing their news stories. For instance, today's announcement that astronomers have the first direct evidence of dark matter was accompanied by this description of how two colliding clusters of galaxies made it possible for the dark matter to be detected:

Visualize, for instance, a cosmic million-mph collision between of two vast wads of raisin oatmeal – with stars and dark matter comprising the raisins and oats representing the gases. The raisins would shoot through with few direct raisin-on-raisin hits, while the oats would get stuck in a patch the middle.


For someone dense like me, who still puzzles over the claim of my 11th grade chemistry teacher that between the electrons is just space (but what IS it?), the raisin oatmeal metaphor is easy to picture. Sure, you could quibble that the raisins can't represent both the stars and dark matter--surely, it should be raisin walnut oatmeal--but otherwise, this is a perfect way to make a complicated idea easy to understand.

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