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Australia Science

Student Finds Universe's Missing Mass 210

Posted by Roblimo
from the she's-a-star-who-looks-at-stars dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A 22-year-old Australian university student has solved a problem which has puzzled astrophysicists for decades, discovering part of the so-called 'missing mass' of the universe during her summer break."
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Student Finds Universe's Missing Mass

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  • by Lemming Mark (849014) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:43AM (#36263712) Homepage

    ...mouldy bit it'll probably still be tasty if you scrape it off a bit.

    • Was going to suggest down the back of sofa while searching for loose change.
      • There was a cry of OMG! that is seriously HUGE! Coming from her astrophysics lecturer's office just before she announced the discovery.
  • Telescope must have been upside-down.
  • They managed to find a female astrophysics student. Anyone in physics can tell you that is a great discovery in and of itself.
  • Any astrophysicists (or at least postgrads) here to say how important or true this achievement really is?

    • by Albanach (527650)

      The server is located amongst the universe's missing mass, so it may take some time.

    • Re:Noteworthiness (Score:5, Informative)

      by XiaoMing (1574363) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:53AM (#36263854)

      Any astrophysicists (or at least postgrads) here to say how important or true this achievement really is?

      The article (got to it prior Newton's First Law of ./ effect) actually did quite a good job of addressing exactly that.

      Takeaways were:
      -Missing mass (not dark matter, but matter which was seen to exist during creation of universe but is now someplace different) turns out to have migrated to filaments that span across the universe.
      -Claimed that astrophysicists have long postulated (~2 decades) that the mass had moved there, but that the imaging capabilities weren't able to resolve it.
      -Then in a fit of bipolar impetus, also went on to say how exciting a discovery this was for the community.
      -Finally acknowledged that most likely nothing useful (to mankind) will come of this discovery.

      • -Missing mass (not dark matter, but matter which was seen to exist during creation of universe but is now someplace different) turns out to have migrated to filaments that span across the universe.

        Sounds like physical philotic rays to me. Is that you, Jane?

      • Finally acknowledged that most likely nothing useful (to mankind) will come of this discovery.

        Wait... does that qualifier mean that it might be useful to our alien overlords or something?

      • by jamesh (87723)

        -Finally acknowledged that most likely nothing useful (to mankind) will come of this discovery.

        Well... if it fulfills some predictions then it possibly validates some theories. If nothing else, maybe the scientists who were collectively looking for this missing mass can now go on to something useful :)

    • Re:Noteworthiness (Score:5, Informative)

      by radtea (464814) on Friday May 27, 2011 @11:03AM (#36263984)

      Any astrophysicists (or at least postgrads) here to say how important or true this achievement really is?

      It's fairly significant. They have confirmed that some fraction of the missing baryonic matter (the ordinary stuff we are made of, like Galactic Dark Matter, not the exotic new-particle stuff) is in the filaments that exist on very large scales in the universe. If they had failed to find it the result would have been more interesting, but even so they've done a good bit of science by testing the idea that the missing baryonic matter is in these filaments by actually going and looking for it rather than taking it on faith that it must be there.

      We know there is missing baryonic matter because we know what the baryonic density in the universe is from the primordial helium/hydrogen ratio. Free neutrons only live about fifteen minutes, so as the Big Bang cooled and neutrons and protons condensed out of the primordial quark-gluon plasma there was a relatively short interval in which helium could form. We know the size of the universe at that time from the temperature, and we know the density because the denser it was the more neutrons would have been captured onto protons to form heavier isotopes, so by figuring out the primordial density of deuterium, helium and lithium we can put pretty strong constraints on the total baryonic mass of the universe.

      • And I learned something today. Thanks for your post (and the 15 or so wiki articles you sent me to.)
  • Way to go Slashdot!

    • BTW, this discovery has nothing whatever to do with dark matter.
      • you wouldn't believe it reading the drivel that the popular press have been writing about it. you'd have thought the words "electron density" would have given it away that we're not talking dark matter here, but no. STUDENT FINDS MISSING MATTER scream the headlines. "ok, fair enough," you think. then the article is filled with things about dark matter. pah.

    • by dubbreak (623656)
      Anyone who modded you up obviously isn't from Victoria. You would have been modded funny or troll. The timescolonist is trash and it's just them reposting an AFP newswire.

      Also of note (for those who didn't notice): the news paper is from the city Victoria, in British Columbia (Canada) NOT the state in Australia.
  • by nwf (25607) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:53AM (#36263866)

    One could just google for copies of the story. I found tons, e.g.here [universetoday.com] or a summary here [rationalskepticism.org].

    Basically, he located the mystery material within vast structures called "filaments of galaxies".

    Now why /. can auto-parse some URLs and not others is anyone's guess.

  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:54AM (#36263870)
    But you'll never catch me!
  • Ok, interestingish (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <imipakNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:58AM (#36263914) Homepage Journal

    A student has found that if you observe in the x-ray range you discover ordinary matter between the galaxies that was clearly evident in the early universe and isn't visible in other parts of the spectrum.

    I'm not sure that it's altogether news that different frequencies let you see different things - to me, by far the biggest news is that despite having x-ray telescopes for a very long time and computers quite capable of crunching that data to detect potentially interesting observations, the astronomers have been opting for cheap student labor instead.

    • Good point. I think we should name "students" the official SI unit for menial work in academia.
      • Actually "students" are what separate the research professors from the hazardous substances. Didn't you read the safety guidelines? :P
    • by Xerxes314 (585536) <clebsch_gordan@yahoo.com> on Friday May 27, 2011 @11:31AM (#36264346)

      Here's the paper: An estimate of the electron density in filaments of galaxies at z~0.1 [arxiv.org].

      The student got listed as first author, which is cool for her. The paper itself is a follow-up to Pimbblet's (the actual prof with the actual grant) 2004 study of filaments. The major finding seems to be that the press is gullible enough to print anything if you say an undergrad did the work. In this case, the press manages to avoid looking like total idiots, since the study is pretty cool and interesting. Nonetheless, the hype is vastly out of proportion to the significance.

      • Couldn't spell to Pond ;-)

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:58AM (#36263920) Homepage
    If I'm reading TFA correctly, this material is mass we already knew had to be around but didn't know where it had gone to. According to TFA, the student in question, Amelia Fraser-McKelvie, the mass in question is essentially conventional mass that is in so called "filaments" between galaxies.
  • by forand (530402) on Friday May 27, 2011 @11:12AM (#36264120) Homepage
    The summary and article are making a mountain out of a mole hill. The student did good work but did not 'find the missing mass' in the universe. Here is a link to the publicly accessible article on arXiv:
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1104.0711 [arxiv.org]
    The abstract does not make any grandiose claims of finding the missing mass of the universe but instead states how the article presents properties of mass in filaments.
  • i read

    "Student Finds Miss Universe's Mass"

  • From TFA:
    "Whenever I speak to people who have influence, politicians and so on, they sometimes ask me 'Why should I invest in physics pure research?'. And I sometimes say to them: 'Do you use a mobile phone? Some of that technology came about by black hole research'."

    So that explains why I can never retrieve the information that gets entered into my phone!

  • Have you seen the excess of mass at McDonalds? And don't get me started on "Kentucky Fried Chicken!"

  • while packing those crates to leave Australia.
  • Don't Worry (Score:2, Funny)

    by b4upoo (166390)

    If the missing mass of the universe is identified it will only take a few minutes for Microsoft to try to patent it.

  • She discovered it upon reflecting that women lie about their weight. The missing mass is discovered by asking the husband when he is too drunk to know better than to be honest.

    Yes, universe, that dress DOES make you look fat.

  • If she can find my missing ballpoint pens - that would be something!

  • ...oh, there it is.

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