We all know how Edwin Hubble made his measures of the movement of distant objects and concluded that the universe was expanding. This caused researchers to wonder if we would expand forever (open), re-collapse (closed) or reach some future steady state (flat). This also implied that we must have been smaller in the past and therefore the big bang theory was supported. What did happen and what will happen depends on a lot on the average density of the universe and the exact rate of expansion.
We are in the middle of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to quantify these values in greater detail but we now know enough now to know that the visible matter in the universe is not enough to account for what we observe. In fact, the missing mass problem has been around since 1933 and follows from the application of the virial theorem to galactic movements.
As science and math have done many times before, we speculate on a solution and then go looking for proof that that solution exists. So we created the dark matter component and its counterpart dark energy. Since this is entirely an imaginary creation, we have given it properties that fit current observations which is that it is entirely invisible, even though it makes up 96% of the universe. It has no emissions or reflections of any electromagnetic radiation so we have no idea what it looks like.
Despite supporting this imaginary construct, cosmologists and astronomers will admit that they cannot suggest what extrapolation of any known physics could account for something that is responsible for so much mass in the universe and yet cannot be detected by any normal observation.
Our only inference that it is there is from observed gravitational effects on visible matter. In other words, we have a hole in a theory that we have filled with something that cannot be seen or detected by any means. We also have a detected gravitational anomaly in a group of formulas that predict various galactic motion. We have neatly solved both problems by linking them to unknown and imaginary attributes of dark matter.
Ah but math and observations, in this case, are not consistent because we do not see the same level of correlation between galactic rotation curve anomalies and the gravitational implications from galaxies that have a large visible light component. We also do not see a uniform distribution of dark matter throughout space or even within galaxies. The ratio of the detected gravitational anomalies attributed to dark matter does not seem to be consistent based on the quantity of stars in a galaxy.
In fact, in globular clusters and galaxies such as NGC3379, there seems to be little or no dark matter at all and other galaxies have been discovered (VIRGOH121) that are almost entirely dark matter. Another recent study showed that there are 10 to 100 times fewer small galaxies than predicted by the dark matter theory of galaxy formation. We cant even agree on whether there is any dark matter in our own Milky Way galaxy.
So this imaginary solution has become a unifying concept among most astrophysicists but only if you keep allowing for a long list of inconsistencies and logical anomalies that get dismissed by saying that we dont know what dark matter is.
Fortunately, the flip side of cosmology is quantum physics and scientists in that field of study have not been satisfied with expressions of human ignorance and have tried to seek out a plausible answer. Unfortunately, they have not had a lot of success when solution candidates are put under intense analysis. Direct detection experiments such as DAMA/Nai and EGRET have mostly been discounted because they cannot be replicated (shades of Cold Fusion). The neutrino was a candidate for awhile but has mostly been discounted because it moves too fast. In fact, most relativistic (fast moving) particles cannot be used because they do not account for the clumps of dark matter observed. Studies and logic have ruled out baryonic particles, electrons, protons, neutrons, neutrinos, WIMPs, and many others.
Up to this point, all this is historical fact and can be easily confirmed. What we have is a typical scientific anomaly in which a lot of people really fear thinking outside the box. The box of traditional and institutional thinking. All of the particle solutions sought so far are simply looking at the heaviest or most massive particles known and asking if that could be dark matter.
Despite the thinking that the dark matter itself is imaginary, why not expand the possibilities to some truly wild ideas? What if there are black holes the size of atoms but with the gravitational pull of a pound of lead. Would the solar wind of bright galaxies blow such small objects away from the galaxy center? That would account for the reduced dark matter detected in high light-to-mass galaxies. The math to show that this is possible can be applied to include or dismiss this idea very quickly and perhaps that has been done. But there is an even better candidate.
Dark Matter and even Dark Energy can be accounted for by the presence of the Higgs Field and the Higgs Boson. This takes the dark matter search out of the realm of finding an object or particle that exhibits unseen mass and puts it into the realm of being caused by the force of gravity itself.
The Higgs field is a non-zero vacuum expectation value that permeates every place in the universe at all times and plays the role of giving mass to every elementary particle, including the Higgs boson itself. If the detected gravitational anomalies are caused by changes in the source of mass itself, then a number of the problems and inconsistencies of dark matter are resolved.
The Higgs field can impart mass to other elementary particles and thus by extension to macro-matter that eventually create the observed massive gravitational fields around certain galaxies. The variation of the effects of dark matter might simply be the non-homogeneous distribution of the Higgs field itself or on the particles that it acts upon.
This is somewhat supported by what we know that the Higgs field does to elementary particles. For instance, the Top Quark is an elementary particle that is about the same size as the electron and yet it has over 200,000 times the mass of the electron as a result of the effects of the Higgs field. We do not know why this occurs but it is firmly established that the Higgs field does NOT impart mass based on size, atomic weight, volume, spin or any other known characteristic of the fundamental particles that we currently know about. It isn’t a big stretch of the imagination to think that there might be other kinds of interactions between the Higgs field and other matter that is not linear or homogeneous.
Some of the components of the Higgs field, specifically the Goldstone Bosons, are infraparticles which interact with soft photons which might account for the reduced dark matter detected in high light-to-mass galaxies. I still like the idea that the high light-to-mass galaxies have a low dark matter component because of the solar wind blowing away the particles that the Higgs field acts on or in the thinning of the Higgs field itself. What specific component of the “solar wind” that is responsible for this outward pressure or push is unknown but such an action does fit observations.
Since we have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson and the Higgs field, it is perhaps possible to predict what kind of repulsive force it might impart but an extension of the scalar field theory for dark energy might imply applicable consequences for electroweak symmetry breaking in the early universe or some variation of the quintessence field theory. What we call vacuum energy, the quintessence field, dark energy and the Higgs Field might actually be all variations of the same theme. One interesting coincidence is that all of these have been speculated to have been created at about the same time period after the big bang event, i.e. very early on in the expansion phase.
The bottom line is that we have far too many reasonable and logical opportunities to explore alternative concepts to explain the gravitational anomalies of the virial theorem to galactic movements without resorting to the distraction of creating a terra incognita label for our lack of imagination and knowledge.