Aether 2.0 seems to be ready for the scrapheap of science. Finally. The concept of Dark Matter always seemed like a 20th century version of Newton’s aether to me, and an attempt to make the story fit the observations by employing what Daniel Dennett calls a ‘skyhook’. Employing skyhooks means using something fantastic or miraculous, a deus ex machina, to plug a hole in your theory. This as opposed to using ‘cranes’, meaning using already existing building blocks to create a new layer of insight. Not that I have any deep knowledge of dark matter, or matter for that matter, I am just naturally suspicious of this sort of miracular hypothetical things.
Via Gary L. Murphy of Teledyn I learned that the skyhook explanation that is Dark Matter (which should constitute 90% of the existing mass) may soon become superfluous. University of Victoria astrophysicists Fred Cooperstock and Steven Tieu have come up with a ‘crane’-based model of a pressureless gas of gravitational participants to explain a problem that until now needed Dark Matter to explain.
The success of Newtonian mechanics in situations like our solar system can be traced to the fact that in this case the planets are basically “test particles”, which do not contribute significantly to the overall field. However, in a galaxy this approximation is not a good one – all the rotating matter is also the source of the gravitational field in which everything rotates.
[astro-ph/0507619] General Relativity Resolves Galactic Rotation Without Exotic Dark Matter
Let’s hope that other problems that need the Dark Matter skyhook in their explanation will find themselves fitted out with a brand new crane-based one soon.