|Dark Matter. Credit: Van Waerbeke, Heymans and the CFHTLens collaboration|
Constructed with data gathered by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, CFHT, the image provides the first direct glimpse of dark matter over long length scales. Dark matter is a mysterious substance that, along with dark energy, makes up 96% of everything in our universe. The other 4% is the ordinary matter and light that scientists spend so much time trying to understand.
The image was created by accumulating data for five years using a wide field imaging camera. The data was then analyzed by looking at the distortion of light emitted by galaxies as it was bent by clumps of dark matter. The results, along with other incredible images, were announced earlier this week at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, Texas.
The analysis of the CFHT data revealed that dark matter is not distributed uniformly throughout the cosmos but, rather, in clumps connected by a network structure. The white spots in the above image are the places where the dark matter is most dense, while the darker spots are essentially empty space.
Further analysis by the CFHT scientists showed that the dense regions of dark matter correspond to locations where galaxies are clustered together. This makes sense, because dark matter interacts with the ordinary matter in stars and nebulas through the force of gravity. Still, it is remarkable to see clear visual evidence of this interaction and to realize what a huge impact dark matter has on the shape of our universe.
So, what does this have to do with complex systems? To be honest, I do not have an answer for that. We know so little about dark matter and dark energy. These two mysterious quantities make up the vast majority of the universe and it is becoming more clear with each new announcement that the largest amounts of dark matter are in the regions where planets and stars and galaxies are located. Since both dark matter and dark energy interact with ordinary matter and light in ways we do not fully understand, there very well may be some relationship between the ability of complex systems to adapt and self-organize and the behavior of dark matter.
Or there may not be! This is one of the reasons I find these new discoveries to be so awesome and exciting. Anything is possible.