Monday, February 06, 2006

Dark Matters

A quick pointer to the dark matter article that's on the BBC site at the moment as well as to the articles in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Nature and New Scientist. The story concerns the findings of the team lead by Professor Gerry Gilmore at Cambridge who, by making use of the very large telescope array, constructed 3D maps of distant "dwarf galaxies" and have inferred from their motions certain properties of dark matter. Some rather exciting things too, via the BBC:
"The distribution of dark matter bears no relationship to anything you will have read in the literature up to now," explained Professor Gilmore.

"It comes in a 'magic volume' which happens to correspond to an amount which is 30 million times the mass of the Sun.

"It looks like you cannot ever pack it smaller than about 300 parsecs - 1,000 light-years; this stuff will not let you. That tells you a speed actually - about 9km/s - at which the dark matter particles are moving because they are moving too fast to be compressed into a smaller scale.

"These are the first properties other than existence that we've been able determine."
The BBC article notes that the research findings have yet to be submitted to a journal so hold your horses...a little.

Updates: Courtesy of Andrew Jaffe who has a link to the preprint The internal kinematics of dwarf spheroidal galaxies and to some discussion at Dynamics of Cats.


Craig said...

Why do you think that the scientists have got the press involved at this stage when they haven't even published their results?

Is this quite common?

My guess is that by raising their profile, they hope to attract more funding, but maybe there's some other reason (the prestige of announcing it first??).

P.P. Cook said...

Hi Craig,

This press attention isn't very common. The only other recent example of this I can think of is Hawking announcing his results at the GR17 conference in Dublin a year or so before the associated paper appeared. In both cases the results were of interest to the public, so maybe it's a buckling to pressure once the story is known of by the media. The ineteresting question is how the media get wind that such a result is on its way, or whether the research team, as you say, are trying to raise their profile and get the press involved themselves. Who knows?

I guess it is quite common for researchers to announce results from a forthcoming paper at a seminar. Just the press interest is rare.

Maybe we should give it a up a BBC journalist and announce a new line of attack in our research, that overcomes a problem that's been bothering us for weeks, and then sit back and watch the ignited media frenzy :)

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