What is dark matter? Do you “believe in it?” Why do some scientists say dark matter must exist, even though humans on earth have yet to invent (or discover) a “detector” which can sense and measure dark matter? What elements compose dark matter? If dark matter exists, how much of the universe is filled with it? Would the proven existence of dark matter invalidate or contradict our current theories of physics, particularly those of quantum mechanics? I’ve read that some of the formulas of Einstein included a variable he could not explain or point to, so it was removed. Was that mysterious variable “the dark matter?” Why is a discussion of dark matter not included in my children’s science textbooks? As science educators, are we adequately communicating to our students how MUCH we still have to discover, explore, and learn in the various domains of science?

bullet cluster

These are all excellent questions, and raise issues about which I have minimal expertise but high levels of interest. Thanks to my new favorite iPhone web app, Podcaster, (which I blogged about last night) I discovered the NOVA Vodcast channel this evening and watched the humorous yet informative episode, “The Dark Matter Mystery.”

Incidentally, I did a fair bit of searching to find a website which would generate the HTML code I needed to embed this podcast in this post. Rather than use a WordPress plugin for video embedding, I wanted a site that would generate code I could insert into MarsEdit. After several attempts, I finally found freevideocoding.com. Very straightforward and handy.

For a higher resolution version of the first image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of the Bullet Cluster, refer to this page on the HubbleSite NewsCenter. The Bullet Cluster “was formed after the collision of two large clusters of galaxies, the most energetic event known in the universe since the Big Bang,” and is one of the subjects addressed in “The Dark Matter Mystery” video podcast.

Shouldn’t all our students have access to mobile devices which provide direct, personal access to this type of high quality video content? Absolutely. Too bad our state governments are still mandating the purchase of paper-based textbooks.

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