A Study in Contrast

So today marked a few different events worthy of mention.  Well, the last few days, technically, but you get the point.  The first is that researchers have found – to within a 99.8% degree of certainty – the existence of “dark matter”.  At this point, scientists are very wary to say they’ve confirmed anything until they get the certainty up to 99.9999%.  Picky, picky.

Now, scientists with the international Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (SuperCDMS) experiment are reporting the detection of a particle that’s thought to make up dark matter: a weakly-interacting massive particle, or WIMP. According to a press release from Texas A&M University (whose high-energy physicist Rupak Mahapatra is a principal investigator in the experiment) SuperCDMS has identified a WIMP-like signal at the 3-sigma level, which indicates a 99.8 percent chance of an actual discovery — a “concrete hint,” as it’s being called.

WE GOT SOME!!! Tricky little buggers, too … (Courtesy of BBC)

“In high-energy physics, a discovery is only claimed at 5-sigma or better,” Mahapatra said. “So this is certainly very exciting, but not fully convincing by the standards. We just need more data to be sure. For now, we have to live with this tantalizing hint of one of the biggest puzzles of our time.”

I confess that I haven’t been keeping up with the latest on the search for dark matter; I’ve been out of the physics biz for over 15 years in favor of engineering so I’m a little less inclined to stay up to speed on the latest developments.  (Still, I strongly suspect that any discoveries made in the world of physics will be a hell of a lot more exciting than anything I can read about in my own field.)  I do know that it supposedly makes up about 27% of the matter in the universe, interacts very weakly with “normal” matter – hence the WIMP moniker – and that its effects are observed by way of its gravitational influence.  I’m guessing – and I could be wrong – that the idea is we either confirm the existence of dark matter or start re-writing gravitational theory.  Again, I’m glad I’m an engineer now.

Then, half a world away, we have a judge in Pakistan ruling that DNA evidence doesn’t outweigh Islamic law requiring the eyewitness testimony of four individuals.

Additional District and Sessions Judge (East) Nadeem Ahmed Khan gave the benefit of doubt to the three alleged rapists on April 6 while rejecting the DNA report and citing contradictory statements of witnesses and lack of evidence as the reasons behind the verdict. Ignoring the medical reports, the judge ruled that there was no solid proof against the suspects in the light of Islamic injunctions that needed at least four eyewitnesses in such cases.

… while back on the home front, the “godless” are being blamed for the Boston bomb attacks on places like Twitter.  Because apparently nothing brings people of faith together like blaming the heathen.  The author points out that it’s not being done by “the usual suspects” yet – like Robertson, Dobson, and company – but I can’t imagine that taking longer than a few days before we see that on TV, myself.

And, finally, this via Reddit:  “Whatever rage you’re feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that’s the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries.”

I’ve thought about this from time to time over the years our drone program has been in effect.  What happened on Monday did enrage me … and it didn’t take long to think about what kind of people we would be if this kind of thing happened all the time at the hands of another government under the guise of “anti-terrorist operations”.  Or, for that matter, what kind of person I would be if I lost a loved one – sorry … “suffered collateral damage” – during one of these attacks and had absolutely no chance of receiving any kind of justice for their murder.

OK, that’s enough.  I’ll have nothing to write about for tomorrow, but I’ll think of something.

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This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Profiles in Fundamentalism, random musings, Religion and Public Life, Science Marches On and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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