back to article After 30 years of searching, astroboffins finally detect the universe's 'missing matter' – using fast radio bursts

Astronomers have finally found hard-to-detect visible matter scattered across space, left over from the Big Bang, after searching for nearly thirty years, according to a study published in Nature. "We know from measurements of the Big Bang how much matter there was in the beginning of the Universe," said Jean-Pierre Macquart, …

  1. Christopher Lane
    Mushroom

    ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

    How can one set of Humans conduct science like this but another fall for this --> https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/05/28/anti_5g_usb_stick/.

    Let us hope the former out number the latter else Humanity will be extinct within 100 years.

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

      I'm fascinated by this. We're clearly living through a golden age of astronomy and astrophysics: it's just extraordinary.

      But we're also living through the last century, or perhaps less, of a recognisable human civilisation unless we do something about it. And not only are we not doing anything about it, we're actively running away into a world of lies and fear.

      I wonder if, when it all falls apart, anything will survive from the work being done now in astronomy?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

        "I wonder if, when it all falls apart, anything will survive from the work being done now in astronomy?"

        In 3000 years, someone will be laughed at for postulating that The Great Giant Wok of Aracebo used to be a primitive telescope. Meanwhile, the World Heritage Monument and Parks Trust will continue to re-paint the inner surface with a light coating of vegetable oil, just as the primitive shaman intended.

        Remember folks, all archaeological finds are clearly of a religious nature until proven otherwise.

        1. Old Used Programmer

          Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

          You've been reading "Digging the Weans", haven't you?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

            Nope, never heard of it. I've just watched a lot of Time Team and similar TV shows. I had to Google the Weans. An interesting short read. I got some of the references, but likely missed a lot of US related ones. It started off good but then seemed to head off into amateur sleuth territory, as if it was written by someone with a smattering of archaeological and social history knowledge but certainly no expert. I think fan fiction is probablywhat it most felt like. ie, nearly as bad as my writings :-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

        It's amazing. It won't be nuclear weapons or pandemics that kill us. Those this are bad themselves, but our own stupidity and arrogance overcomes it all. The breakdown of the ability to think will be the end.

    2. Daniel Hall

      Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

      Looks like you got downvoted by a conspiracy nutcase.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

      That's what happens when you allow the thick to breed - hence Trump / Brexit / beaches full during Covid

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

      The birthrate of intellectuals is generally far lower than the average so this really is a foregone conclusion: the idiots will win.

      1. tfb Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

        This is demonstrably false.

        First of all I have no idea what 'an intellectual' is: is an astroboffin an intellectual, or are only people who read literae humaniores intellectuals? But let's put that aside.

        Then in order for it to make sense you need to assume that 'being an intellectual' (whatever it means) is genetic: intellectuals tend to have children who are also intellectuals.

        Finally you need to assume that intellectuals have less children than average.

        Well, an immediate consequence of those two assumptions is that the proportion of intellectuals in a population declines over time. And in fact it declines as exp(-kt) where k (k > 0) is some parameter you need to work out based on the relative breeding success.

        Well, humans have been breeding for thousands of years, and we still have significant numbers of intellectuals, and the proportion is, I'm sure, roughly constant over time. So either intellectuals just arise in the general population (ie from non-intellectual parents) at some rate, or intellectuals have, on average, as many children as non-intellectuals. Almost certainly the former is true: probably the latter is not true, although it may be.

        We're not heading for catastrophe because we're breeding out smart people, in other words, whatever Cummings & other people who think they are cleverer than they are think.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

          Things have changed for humanity, until comparatively recently (a century or so) the 'hard of thinking' were unable to either access or distribute blatantly stupid ideas because only the intellectuals & leadership* were literate or actually travelled beyond the next town. Any population that succumbed to a bad idea would soon be weeded out by nature if the neighbours didn't get them first.

          Modern civilisation generally protects the weak and vulnerable, this includes those without the cognative ability to rationally consider the veracity of any idea that pops up on the idiot box live feed.

          *two groups, not always with a large overlap.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

            Modern civilisation generally protects the weak and vulnerable, this includes those without the cognative ability to rationally consider the veracity of any idea that pops up on the idiot box live feed.

            Seeing the stare of modern society, I'm starting to wonder if being a member of a coddled and protected sub-group has now become an evolutionary advantage, higher than being able to think and act for yourself?

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

              I think the medium of the web and social media exposes the nutters and the hopelessly thick and gullible for us all to see, but they’ve always existed. I think I preferred it when I didn’t know they existed. Ignorance is bliss.

              Oh yes, the ignorant,

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

                There's also something about the democratisation of belief. Somehow, now, every belief has to be accorded respect (particularly when expressed via social media) and given equal status. It's as if False Equivalence has become a human right. The BBC has been particularly fertile ground for this- because it has been practising "Balance" in defiance of gravity. i.e. On one side of an argument will be expertise, research and an established academic track record. On the other side will be some politician, lobbyist or loon who chooses not to accept the evidence. And the BBC's presenters are expected ( maybe even willing) to accord equal weight to both sides. And if the facts bear out one side - as with climate change for example- they'll describe it as "controversial" because there are opinionated fools who refuse to accept it.

        2. englishr
          Childcatcher

          Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

          > Finally you need to assume that intellectuals have less children than average.

          I suspect that intellectuals have fewer children than average.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

          shut it - smart arse.

        4. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

          I can see what you are saying, and "intellectual" is a strange concept.

          But, professionally I can also argue that the children of those who read, consider and discuss stuff are also more likely to do so.

          Whereas illiteracy and poor attitudes to learning etc while not hereditary for the most part (some would argue that) do run in families.

        5. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

          This is demonstrably false.

          Au contraire. There is a very strong inverse correlation between the fertility rate and the standard of living, as well as the level of education of women and their individual fertility rate.

          But, basically matey, get off your high horse as I wasn't making a particularly serious point.

          1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

            Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

            I was reading along and pondering how to rebuke seriously and at the same time mentioning lol-ness, but now I do; vote this post up & mention that absolute quantities are important in this matter. The ratio of {intellectuals/(OrangeUtans&Trumpansees)} may be constant but at a certain point/area in time-space there will be an absolute quantity (OU&T) that trumps the local intellectuals and weeds them out. And so on.

            (This post is also meant to be funny.)(ahum)

    5. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

      As a wise man once said:

      "You know how dumb the average person is? Well, by definition, half of 'em are even dumber than THAT."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

        A wiser man said "You know that isn't how averages work, right?"

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

          Depends on whether you're speaking of Mean, Median or Mode averages.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

            “We'll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere and to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys.”

            ― HHGG

      2. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

        Well, by definition, ........

        Hence I don't particularly like the current implementation of democracy.

        Reach critical mass of lower half and explode it will, or so.

    6. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: ...but does it really "matter" given the state of Humanity?

      @Christopher Lane

      "How can one set of Humans conduct science like this but another fall for this"

      Just look at some of these replies. The necessity to label some people as uneducated for holding a different opinion such as trump or climate change. A singular attribute to feel superior to others while requiring no more thought or intelligence than to apply a label to someone.

      And most people do it possibly even the intelligent, yet if you cant discuss and learn (instead you must accept the label) then you could believe in some really stupid things purely for the lack of allowing your mind to consider other options.

  2. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Happy

    Pesky stuff - every time it thinks we are looking it goes and hides. But we've caught it unawares this time.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      I suspect it was down the back of the sofa all the time.

  3. herman Silver badge
    Devil

    The dark matter only exists when you are not looking for it. Maybe Shy Matter would be a better name for it.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
      Pint

      This isn't about dark matter (which we do not know about), it's about regular baryonic matter ie. your regular atomic nuclei with protons and (optionally) neutrons in them, like you would expect to see in a hydrogen atom.

      Well done for the boffins, this is amazing discovery.

      1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
        Pint

        "...nuclei with protons and (optionally) neutrons in them...

        That I can understand but it's the morons I have problems with.

    2. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

      Or does the universe consist of "Does matter" and "Doesn't matter".

      "Doesn't matter" coming from a spouse being a truly fearsome emission...

      1. tony2heads

        It is worse when asking "what's the matter" to hear the reply "nothing"

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          You can't easily identify if it's a non fatal error without risking a "Fatal Error: restart" situation either.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
          Pint

          So that's how dark energy is created !

  4. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Headmaster

    What maketh a man?

    The computer or device you're using right now to read this is made up of it.

    And not inconsequentially, you are made of it as well...

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: What maketh a man?

      I'm still trying to work out which one of my computers blew up so badly that its distributed around the universe. I think it might have been the TTL on with the faulty power supply.

  5. Mike 140

    average office

    “about one or two atoms in a room the size of an average office.”

    Can't find that in SSI or El Reg standard units. Anyone know the conversion factors?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: average office

      Simples!

      All you have to do, is measure the volume of every office on the planet and divide by the number measured 'et voila!'.

      I can lend you a tape measure if you like.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: I can lend you a tape measure if you like.

        Only if said measure uses El Reg-approved standard units. We'll have none of that archaic metric or imperial malarky, thank you very much.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: I can lend you a tape measure if you like.

          Volume measured in Cubic Cubits?

          1. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

            Re: I can lend you a tape measure if you like.

            Volume is measured in grapefruit (or for really big things Olympic swimming pools).

          2. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

            Re: I can lend you a tape measure if you like.

            Where do the Cubicals fit in this discussion?

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Boffin

        measure the volume of every office on the planet

        Which you obviously do by sealing them up, dropping a suction hose in the nearest Olympic swimming pool, pumping the water from the pool into the office and checking how much is left when the office you're measuring is full. For large offices you will probably need several OSPs, and you might run into a supply problem if you want to do all the offices in one go.

        On the other hand, upping the pool's chlorine concentration before you start pumping will probably help with combatting the spread of Covid-19, flush out stale sandwiches and leftover pizza and generally do a better job at cleaning than the average Office Service Company.

    2. Emir Al Weeq

      Re: average office

      I came here to ask the same question. Also, is that a modern, open-plan office or British Standard lock-down broom cupboard / spare bedroom / kitchen table office?

      1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

        Re: average office

        What's an office?

        Been WFH in the GeekCave for so long that I can't remember how big mine is. I think it was quite small, so me plus a couple of atoms would be a tight fit.

    3. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: average office

      Surely it would be compared to the density of sheep in Wales.

      1. Irongut Silver badge

        Re: average office

        I don't think there's enough of it to usefully compare it to the density of sheep in Wales. The density of sheep in Milton Keynes perhaps?

        1. Robert D Bank

          Re: average office

          more like the density of sheep in offices

          or rocking hose shit

      2. tfb Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: average office

        sheep/wales is count/area, you need either count/volume of mass/volume. In my other comment I suggest the great-white-shark / olympic-sized-swimming-pool, both of which are approved units.

        1. TDog

          Re: average office

          Couldn't you just integrate it, perhaps between i and the great white shark?

      3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: average office

        Perhaps "picoHilaries", with one "Hilary" being the density of your average Hilary Clinton supporter.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: average office

          That sounds reasonable. If you'd gone with the density of an average Trump supporter however, that would have just ended up with ridiculously outrageous numbers.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            ridiculously outrageous numbers.

            You mean Yuuuuge numbers

    4. tfb Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: average office

      I'm not sure what the base units appropriate here are, but great-white-shark (mass) per olympic-sized-swimming-pool (volume) seems appropriate. Assuming the average office is 4mx4mx3m and the atoms are hydrogen (which they will be: there basically aren't any other kind of atom), then I get about 10E-29 gws/osp. Pretty safe to go swimming then.

      (reg unit conversions from here, mass of hydrogen from my head).

      1. eldakka Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: average office

        I was thinking along the lines of using energy units like with eV (via E=mc2), but it appears there are no RU's (Reg Units) for energy. But I have a vague idea of what could be used for energyu units (see icon).

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          it appears there are no RU's (Reg Units) for energy

          You can express energy in Reg Units, force (Norris) times distance (linguini, Osman, brontosaurus), but for expressing power you need to divide by time, and that has been rather intractable.

          Especially lunchtime.

          More research is required.

    5. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: average office

      I think the way the better half has been cleaning since lockdown they aint round here! I've go my 6 pack back from all the feet lifting when the hoover comes round.

    6. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: average office

      Don't know what the size of an average office is, however it does confirm, DA's observation: “Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.”

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: average office

        As much space as was in my (former) CEOs office, then.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: average office

      The standard measurement for area is a Wales.

      The standard measurement for length is a London bus (non-bendy).

      The standard measurement for height is a Nelson's Column.

      The standard measurement for volume is an Olympic swimming pool.

      HTH

      1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

        The standard

        Area (nanoWales - nW)

        Force (Norris - No)

        Length (linguine - lg)

        Temperature (Hilton - Hn)

        Volume (grapefruit - gf)

        Weight - (Jub - Jb)

        Velocity - (Percentage of maximum velocity of sheep in a vacuum)

        Money - (Pogba - Pg)

    8. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: average office

      One Arcturan ant's space-fart?

  6. AScott

    Astroboffins. Really?

    Give the SCIENTISTS the respect they deserve by referring them to as scientists, astrophysicists, etc.

    Why bother filing the article under "Science" if you're going to exhibit your disrespect as blatantly as you've done. You cheapen your brand by having done so.

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      It is a term of respect.

    2. tfb Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      You should read el reg for a bit longer before making a fool of yourself. 'Boffin' is a term of very considerable respect here, & astroboffins are to mere ordinary boffins as tigers are to domestic cats: they're basically the toppermost of the toppermost[*].

      ([*] I know, it should be 'toppermost of the poppermost')

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Astroboffins. Really?

        There's no need for explicit putdowns, obscure ones will suffice

      2. ThatOne Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Astroboffins. Really?

        > ([*] I know, it should be 'toppermost of the poppermost')

        Topperware?

        1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Joke

          Re: Astroboffins. Really?

          "Topperware?

          Yeah - you put five of them in an office and close the door.

          Return later and there are seven of them but none of them are wearing shoes.

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      Get a life.

    4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      Much to learn, you still have.

    5. Stumpy Silver badge

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      You're obviously new around these here parts....

    6. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      @AScott

      Well done for collecting so many downvotes on your first ever post. That is itself a triumph.

    7. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      Life is wasted on the living.

    8. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      A Scott wanted to put in his two cents and forgot /s ..

    9. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Holmes

      Re: Astroboffins. Really?

      New here?

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Holmes

        New here?

        Posts by AScott

        1 post • joined 29 May 2020

        That would be a 'yes', I'd say.

  7. Sam Therapy
    Angel

    Aha!

    So that's where I left it. Thanks, chaps!

  8. retiredandouttolunch

    "the width of a human hair held 200m away"

    another new Reg unit of measure?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: "the width of a human hair held 200m away"

      Why does that make me think of toy cows?

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: "the width of a human hair held 200m away"

      The unit of social isolation given to a computer scientist in a pub on discovery of their profession in a non-pandemic situation. The 'I'll be right back after I've answered this important call' unit of length!

    3. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

      Re: "the width of a human hair held 200m away"

      Agree,

      Measure of Angle.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "This matter should also be out there in space, too"

    You already said "also".

  10. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Missing Matter?

    Ok.. a question, maybe it's dumb.

    Have we discovered all the galaxies in the universe? Maybe that there's more undiscovered galaxies and that's where the missing matter is.

    1. Killing Time

      Re: Missing Matter?

      The answer to your question is clearly no because they still haven't been able to see back to the Epoch of Reionization.

      However, astronomers can see back far enough that with extremely conservative assumptions the probability of the missing mass being in this unknown region is vanishingly small.

      In short, they are not dumb and they know what they are talking about.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Missing Matter?

        "extremely conservative assumptions" == "God did it. Sorted."

  11. Katy_B

    Nice to have found out

    Just before trump reintroduces a nuclear arms race to impress his voters.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Nice to have found out

      Sorry, but that was last year!

      https://www.state.gov/u-s-withdrawal-from-the-inf-treaty-on-august-2-2019/

      icon: it helps

  12. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Boffin

    Maybe I can use Fast Radio Bursts

    in my storage, to help find any matter that appears to be missing from there.

  13. aks Bronze badge

    If they've now found a lot of missing matter, rather thinly spread but cumulatively significant, does that mean that the ratio of matter to that of dark energy and dark matter needs to be adjusted?

    1. cbars Silver badge

      No, these come from different observations. This article was about finding the mass which is predicted by the model which has been built from looking "back in time" at the CMB + expansion etc to work out how many particles there used to be in a certain volume of space (and therefore still should be in a bigger volume thanks to expansion and explosion).

      The Dark matter and energy stuff is measured using the measurements taken from movements of stars around galaxies and intra galaxy movements, etc which correlate with *higher still* mass than what we can see by counting stars and black holes etc

      (This is vastly smaller than the error bars on measured star mass, the gap between what we see and what we need to explain it is humungous, this doesn't touch the sides)

      Disclaimer: its been a long time since I learned this sort of stuff so I've probably muddled some bits up here.

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