Thursday, Apr 24, 2014
Linda Downing

Seeing the light in dark matter


Published:   |   Updated: March 12, 2013 at 05:02 PM

Is it already February 2013? What happened to January? What happened to 2012 — and all that came before? The memories hover like a heavy mist at dawn. We see the outline of substance but are surprised at what we cannot see that we believe is there.

Last November, scientists lowered a "dark matter detector" into a 70,000-gallon water tank about a mile below the earth's surface in an old South Dakota gold mine. The more-than-$300 million experiment seeks "darkness," the kind spoken of in Genesis: "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…" (1:2).

Thus far, dark matter has been undetectable but believed to exist because of its gravitational pull. Why are they engaging in an enterprise offering no practical value? An Associated Press article noted: "What they covet most: something they've never seen before."

Maybe that sums up human nature. We seek more than we usually find. We advocate moving forward but look for answers in the past.

The U.S. Marine Corps believes that tendency may be behind the increased suicide rate, a very real darkness, in the military. It is incorporating "mindfulness-based training" to produce tougher warriors. The Buddhist-inspired mindfulness focuses on the moment. The brain-calming exercises may help soldiers handle stress by zeroing in on bodily sensations, such as breathing, in silence.

There is no doubt that the physical affects our emotional and spiritual states. Number 3 in The Tampa Tribune's Dec. 30 list of "50 Things We Know Now That We Didn't Last Year" is: "A simple orange scent introduced into a shopping environment prompted 400 customers to spend an average of 20 percent more money at a store."

That our five senses can sharpen life's pleasures and sorrows is well known. Equally evident to those for whom time has become an almost-laughable concept is how much those same five can deceive. It is the reason we think future, live past, and miss present. We look back, wondering that memory is so spotted — decades missing, shadowy impressions balking against our strain to recall what we imagine should be crystal clear.

Many of us love paper and are dismayed over what is becoming a paperless society. We love the feel of pen in hand, writing in artistic cursive, appreciating quality paper as some know fine wine. We crave the scent of old books in musty libraries. Nevertheless, America is transitioning quickly to E-books. That may seem like darkness to some until they must downsize and discover they can hold a whole library in their hand through a tablet computer or e-reader.

Some Social Security recipients glean pleasure from receiving the check in the mail, holding it in their hands, cashing it. The money seems more real. Soon they will be forced into digital banking. It is not be the end of civilization — just maybe as they know it.

If scientists succeed in finding dark matter, it will have practical value only in the context of its origin: "…darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light…" (Genesis 1:2-3).


Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together—side-by-side. Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.

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