
Dark Matter Hiding in the
Margins
Aug
27, 2009
Astronomers and astrophysicists
are so keen to identify cold dark
matter that almost any argument is
accepted in the physics journals and
the popular science media without
apparent critical reasoning.
A recently published
paper in the Journal of Physics
A by Adler (2008) calculates the
maximum amount of cold dark matter
that must be present in the space
between the Laser Geodynamics
Satellites (LAGEOS) and the Moon’s
orbit. Adler asserts that there is
at most the equivalent to 4 x 10^9
of Earth’s mass of dark matter in
that volume (2.4 x 10^16 kilograms).
This scientific journal article was
reported on the
Scientific American and the
American Scientist websites,
among others. Unfortunately, the
writers and editors seem not to have
read the original paper and were
more concerned with sensational
headlines about dark matter than
responsible science reporting. Still
worse, the editor of the Journal of
Physics A didn’t seem to pay much
attention to the paper.
What Adler does is deceptively
straightforward. He uses published
measurements for the gravitational
parameter (GM in units of kg^3/s^2,
the product of the gravitational
constant G and the object’s mass)
for the Earth alone, the Moon alone,
and the Earth and Moon combined.
After subtracting the values for the
Earth alone and the Moon alone from
the value of the two combined, what
is left must be dark matter.
Adler's value for the combined GM
parameter is 403503.2357 ± 0.0014.
His value for the Earth alone is
398600.4356 ± 0.0008, and his value
for the Moon alone is 4902.8000 ±
0.0003. Each of these gravitational
parameters is derived using a
different method with different sets
of assumptions, and are then
"tweaked" in different ways (with
implicit assumptions) before the
final calculations. In the end,
Adler finds the GM for dark matter
to be 0.0001±0.0016. By dividing
this value by the GM for the Earth,
the result is a ratio of (0.3 ± 4) x
10^9. Based on that result, he
asserts that there must be a mass of
dark matter less than 4 x 10^9
times that of the Earth in that
volume of space (G assumed to be a
constant).
There is a deep flaw in the proposal
that the difference in these values
is statistically significant. What
has been found is that the GM value
selected for the EarthMoon
combination versus the separate GM
values for the Earth and Moon alone
agree well within their stated
tolerances.
Alternatively, the value for the
combined EarthMoon GM is
403503.2357 ± 0.0014. If for
comparison the separate Earth and
Moon values are added using standard
interval calculations to get the new
error, the value is 403503.2356 ±
0.0011. Looking at these two values
with error bars on a chart, the
second summed value fits perfectly
within the 95% confidence error bars
of the original combined value.
There is no significant difference
between the two values.
This error in reasoning is
immediately followed by another
statistical sleight of hand. Adler
computes the dark mattertoEarth GM
ratio of (0.3 ± 4) x 10^9. From
this he uses only the positive side
of the 95% confidence interval to
assert there is at most 4 x 10^9
the fraction of Earth’s mass in dark
matter between Earth and the Moon.
This is really misleading. The
positive side of a confidence
interval has no more statistical
significance than the negative side.
It is 0.3 plus or minus 4, not just
plus. That means 3.7 is as
statistically valid as +4.3. The
best that he can propose (if we can
ignore the error in assigning a
statistically insignificant
difference to dark matter at all) is
that there is a 95% likelihood of
there being or not being any dark
matter in that volume of space. That
is not really so enlightening.
However, the fundamental errors he
makes in interpreting these
calculations does not stop the
flights of fancy in the Scientific
American article one bit:
“Based on current data, Adler
estimates in the October 17 Journal
of Physics A that at most some 24
trillion metric tons of dark matter
lies between Earth and the moon.
Such a dark matter halo might
explain the anomalies seen in the
orbits of the Pioneer, Galileo,
Cassini, Rosetta and NEAR mission
spacecraft. Adler also speculates
that dark matter could exert
dramatic effects on the four gas
giants in our solar system—Jupiter,
Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. If these
massive worlds have gravitationally
captured dark matter, then dark
matter particles could smash into
them—rare events but enough to heat
up the gas giants and account for
why the insides of these planets
(and even Earth) seem hotter than
known mechanisms can explain. It
might also account for why Uranus
seems anomalously cold—the planet is
bizarrely tilted, perhaps because of
a colossal impact, and Adler
surmises that this collision might
have knocked away most of the dark
matter cloud that might typically
have heated Uranus.”
It’s difficult to know where to
start with a critique of the
Scientific American article. First,
the writer obviously did not read
the paper, or if he did, he has no
grasp of confidence intervals.
Second, the amount of mass under
consideration is comparatively tiny.
Twentyfour trillion metric tons is
not even a very big asteroid. It’s
not even in the top 10 of asteroid
masses. So how this is meant to
explain spacecraft orbital anomalies
is not clear. Allowing for similar
dark matter “halos” around the other
planets, it will not exert any
significant gravitational force on
the Pioneer spacecraft.
Third, there’s the speculation about
Uranus. By definition, dark matter
does not interact with “regular”
matter. So how a collision with
Uranus would have “knocked away”
dark matter is difficult to
understand.
Adler correctly states that there
are anomalous temperature phenomena
associated with Venus, Saturn and
other planets. The Electric Universe
model uses observational data of
electrical currents in space to
propose hypotheses about these
temperature anomalies. Wal Thornhill
used the Electric Universe model to
correctly predict that Saturn would
have hot North and South Poles (even
though the North Pole was in total
darkness for over 15 years).
Comparing this to Adler’s ideas, how
would dark matter collisions
preferentially heat the North and
South poles?
The Electric Universe model also
predicts the spacecraft orbital
anomalies. Space probes develop a
negative charge as they move through
space. As Wal Thornhill discussed in
"A
Mystery Solved," in the weak but
steady electric field of the Sun
negatively charged spacecraft will
experience a small “anomalous”
acceleration toward the Sun.
Those employed by our scientific
establishment, as well as scientific
reporters, should be held to a high
standard of critical thinking. In
addition, the readership must not
take any assertions from the
scientific community at face value.
A scientific theory is best assessed
by its ability to provide testable
predictions of the Universe around
us. By adopting an attitude that
asserts a theory is no longer open
to being falsified, we have moved
from science to faith. The Electric
Universe movement encompasses a wide
range of testable models and
propositions to explain the world
around us. It is also about
empowering an educated public to
demand better science from our
scientists.
Contributed by Tom Wilson




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