Why is dark matter the best theory to explain the missing mass problem?

Why is dark matter mathematically necessary to explain the missing mass problem?

On a side not I believe dark matter is definately intuitive the next logical step in physics is to accept the fact the direct observations can not always be the determining factor in the acceptance of a theory. Positivism is not going to be the only driving force in physics forevermore.

One theory that seems almost as good is the supersymmetric particle. What determination which are actually detectible and how would we distinguish the differences between the two?

http://www.science20.com/hammock_physicist/dark_matter_plot_thickens. http://www.holoscience.com/wp/synopsis/synopsis-5-electric-galaxies/5/

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    $\begingroup$ I think you would learn a lot to start by reading en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter. Afterwards you might not think its not such an outlandish idea. $\endgroup$
    – DJBunk
    Jun 29, 2012 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ First, it's "foolhardy" and second, why would it be foolhardy to consider the existence of matter that only interacts gravitationally? Should we develop the capability to "see" gravitational waves, dark matter, if it exists, will no longer be dark, correct? $\endgroup$ Jun 29, 2012 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ If you don't want to start a discussion, I would avoid inflammatory terms like "haphazard" and "foolhearty" (sic) $\endgroup$
    – user2963
    Jun 29, 2012 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Argus Some empiric evidence has been collected in favour of the dark matter theory. In fact, a specialist even created a "map" of the possile distribution of dark matter in our galaxy, or some bounded space near us, by certain measurements involving light waves and how they were bent by the gravitational field of dark matter. Make some research. $\endgroup$
    – Pedro
    Jun 29, 2012 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ It's not clear to me what you're actually asking here, Argus. If you explain your question more directly, it will improve the quality and perhaps it could be reopened. (Also using proper grammar wouldn't hurt - in general, something which doesn't include a question mark can't really be a question) $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Jun 29, 2012 at 3:44

2 Answers 2


Go out and discover those "other explanations" (and accumulate sufficient supporting evidence, of course) and you can laugh at the dark matter specialists.

Until then dark matter is the simplest hypothesis on offer that explains multiple observations in one go (galactic rotation curves, cluster dynamics, super cluster dynamics, the bullet cluster, the lumpiness of the universe, the currently small value of the Hubble constant in light of the large observed size of the universe and the small observed baryonic matter density).

Nor is it like there haven't been competitors along the way. People have been challenging this idea all along. Some of those challenges have turned out to be part of the explanation and have been incorporated into the big picture (for instances MACHOs), others have not panned out (MOND is not in very high regard just now).

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for "People have been challenging this idea all along." The fact is that Dark Matter is a theory of last resort. Physicists are about the last people in the world to believe in anything so spooky. $\endgroup$
    – Ernie
    Aug 11, 2015 at 15:46

The missing mass problems are several sets of observations that could be explained if there were some matter that has mass (interacts with other matter via gravity) but does not interact with light. The same distribution of this missing mass would explain all of them. All competitors that have been explored fail to explain at least one.

I only partially understood the evidence explained in the wikipedia article, but let me try to summarize the major pieces of evidence that I understood.

Historically, the first piece of evidence is the galactic rotational curves. If you have an object with a mass distribution, you can predict different parts of it should rotate about the object's center of mass. When astronomers apply this idea to galaxies, they find that the stars far away from the center move faster than they'd expect based on the mass distribution that they can see.

Gravitational lensing is a result of general relativity. When one massive object is in front of another object, the mass from the front object distorts the light that arrives from the rear object. Astronomers infer the mass of the front object by how the appearance of the rear object changes when the front object moves out of the way. General relativity is the only theory that has successfully described this phenomena, and it predicts that the mass must be there.

Finally, several experiments have measured the cosmic microwave background radiation in quite some detail. This background radiation looks almost, but not exactly, the same in all directions. This variation is called the anisotropy. I don't fully understand why, matter that interacts with light has a different signal in the anisotropy than matter that doesn't interact with light. So by measuring the anisotropy in enough detail, astronomers can infer how much normal matter there is, and how much dark matter there is.

The dark matter community talks about "candidates" for dark matter. These are particles that could be the missing mass. The Scientific American article you cite is about one experiment that is looking for a specific candidate. Supersymmetric particles are another candidate for dark matter, not a competing theory.

Both of your other links set off a lot of red flags for me. The Electric Universe really looks like it's just a crank with a pet theory. It doesn't seem like it's even trying to address the anomalies that dark matter explains; it's only trying to argue against black holes. Their theory will not explain any of the missing mass anomalies. Science 2.0 looks like it has a mix of good and bad content. The particular article you cited is about MOND, modified Newtonian dynamics. The idea is to modify either Newton's second law ($F = ma$) or Newton's law of universal gravitation (so that the force due to gravity would fall off as something other than $r^{-2}$). MOND was originally invented to explain galactic rotation curves, and it does that. Its problem is that it doesn't explain, for example, gravitational lensing.


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