The Morning Text 11/03: Unknown Space

An Educational Newsletter

Welcome to The Morning Text!

Fun Fact courtesy of Mallory Nuzman! A new species of millipede was just discovered! This new species has 414 legs and 4 penises. There are many animals/insects that have multiple genitalia. This is evolutionarily advantageous because it gives them the ability to have sex with multiple partners one after the other without taking a break between them. They simply switch out the penis for another. Kangaroos are also amongst those blessed animals with their three vaginas!

Today’s morning text is the second part of the previous morning text on gravity. To read that newsletter, please follow this link:

Also, if you didn’t see it, go read the comment posted on yesterday’s morning text by Aaron! He had a very interesting take on my example with the trampoline.

So yesterday, we talked about gravity. We learned that gravity is caused by the unequal distribution of matter in the spacetime continuum. We need to understand how gravity works to understand today’s concept.

In order for this concept to make sense, we need to come to terms with two things. One, we need to forget the notion that all of the space between physical matter (planets, stars, clouds, black holes, etc) is some empty space, void of all substance. Instead, imagine it as a vast field with certain properties and laws. Two, we need to understand that we just don’t understand it (if that makes sense). 

Of everything that we know exists in space, and that includes everything we can’t directly detect, the physical matter that we can see, taste or touch accounts for less than 5% of everything in the known universe. Another 27% is dark matter, and 68% is dark energy. 

It was during the observation of gravity that astronomers ran into dark matter. In 1933, a Swiss American astronomer by the name of Fritz Zwicky theorized the existence of dark matter, not to be confused with black holes or antimatter. 

So what is dark matter? First of all, I think the term “dark matter” is misleading. We really don’t know what it is. We’re not even sure it’s matter. Of all the gravity we have ever measured in our universe, only 15% of it is accounted for with physical matter we can detect. Meaning that 85% of all the gravity we’ve seen is coming from something we can’t detect. Dark matter is that missing variable that creates all that gravity. Personally, I prefer the original term used in the 1930’s, “missing mass.”

Dark matter may or may not be a substance. But what we do know is that it does not emit light, and we know that it interacts with gravity. We can see that as it passes through space it bends light (a property of gravity). We know that its not a black hole because black holes are immensely dense masses of physical matter that create tons of gravity located in specific areas where as dark matter is not detectable and is scattered all over the place. We also know that it’s not antimatter because when antimatter reacts with normal matter it gives off unique gamma rays. Dark matter is greatly responsible for the structure of our universe. If it wasn’t for the gravity of dark matter, galaxies would not form and instead the many stars that exist would disperse into space.

The confusion gets worse with dark energy. Just like dark matter, we don’t know what dark energy is. In 1927, Hubble witnessed that the Doplar effect was more consistent in more distant galaxies and that as time went on the Doplar shift was even more drastic. It occurred to him that this was because space was expanding (up until then people thought that matter was coming together because of gravity). We have also realized that the rate at which space is expanding is increasing. It is believed that the increase in rate is due to dark energy. Again, we don’t exactly know what it is, but we have a few ideas:

 1. Remember when I said “imagine it [space] as a vast field with certain properties and laws?” This first theory is exactly that. This theory suggests that dark energy isn’t even energy. Instead it’s a constant property of space that is seen more as space expands. The more space stretches at the edges, the more space fills the gaps in the middle (that makes sense! As space gets more spacious, space has empty spaces that need to be filled in with more space).

 2. Another theory is similar to a theory that Einstein created called a cosmological constant. Much like a cosmological constant, dark energy could be a force that counteracts gravity. So instead of pulling things together, it forces things away. I should mention that when we tried to calculate the existence and strength, the results were so all over the place that this theory is basically dismissible as a viable possibility.

 3. There is also a theory that space is just a spontaneous eruption of virtual particles that appear from nothing and then disappear again. The energy released from those particles when they disappear could be dark energy.

 4. The final theory suggests that dark energy is an energy charged field that stretches every. 

Even if any of these theories are true, we have absolutely no way to detect dark energy to prove them.

So there you have it! The general makeup of our universe. Less than 5% known matter, and the rest of it dark matter and dark energy. I know today’s morning text was super dense and sciency, thanks for bearing with me. Tomorrow’s will be more fun I promise, I just love astrophysics. 

Challenge of the Day: after living through all of that deep material, you deserve an easy challenge. Take some time tonight to find the Big Dipper.

That’s it for today! Please don’t hesitate to provide feedback so that I can better cater to your interests. If you believe you have received this message in error and no longer wish to receive them, please notify me. If you would like to view previous Morning Texts please visit 

Have a wonderful day.

Written by Caleb Gibbons