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Of Particular Significance

Dark Matter Debates

27 May 2014, 12:37 UTC
Dark Matter Debates
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Last week I attended the Eighth Harvard-Smithsonian Conference on Theoretical Astrophysics, entitled “Debates on the Nature of Dark Matter”, which brought together leading figures in astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics. Although there was very little strikingly new, it was a very useful conference for taking stock of where we are. I thought I’d bring you a few selected highlights that particularly caught my eye.
Does Dark Matter Exist, and In What Form?
First, the question of whether dark matter even exists was nicely explored by Stacey McGaugh, from the University of Maryland, who gave a talk on the possibility that the laws of gravitation and/or motion are altered, along the lines suggested by Mordechai Milgrom. The theoretical approach of Milgrom is usually called “MOND”: MOdified Newtonian Dynamics; it involves an ad hoc change in the laws of motion when objects exceed a certain rate of acceleration. McGaugh, who is an astronomer, gave a careful illustration of how MOND à la Milgrom explains some odd features of galaxies. This involves careful examination of how stars rotate around the centers of galaxies of all sizes, from the very large to the very small. He emphasized that the hypothesis that galaxies are ...

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