Dark Matter: The Jess Mariano of the Universe

A mile underground, in a converted mine somewhere in South Dakota, scientists have been trying to detect an elusive substance that makes up around 27 per cent of all the mass and energy in the observable universe: dark matter.

For twenty months, from October 2014 to May 2016, the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment was trying to detect dark matter. But at last week’s International Dark Matter Conference (a name I call immediate dibs on in case I start a girl band), Professor of Physics at Brown University Rick Gaitskell said: “What we have observed is consistent with background alone.”

The LUX experiment had failed. Dark matter remains as mysterious as Jess Mariano in season two of Gilmore Girls.

However, as the Sanford Underground Research Facility prepares for round two with an experiment 70 times more sensitive than LUX, now is a good time to talk about why dark matter is so darn hard to detect.

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COLLAGE BY ALEX HANSON

Hello, World!

A portrait of the writer as a young clown

I’ve been learning to code for the past 3 months – nothing major, nothing spectacular. But now I know that the utterly simple exclamation of Hello, World! is enough to induct a newbie into the world of programming. I’m saying this now because I realise I’ve never really spoken to any of you directly – ever – but here you are: still and unflinching, dark and mysterious. You fascinate me. I recently started an internship producing radio at the ABC, and my presenter says that word a lot – this is fascinating, it’s great to talk to you.

So, then. Who are you? How are you going? Do you have any pets? A cat or a dog or a gecko?

I’m opening up to you in hopes this rambling display of openness and trust will inspire some back-and-forth. Tonight I spoke to a curator at a museum for the morbid, last week to a woman directing the Future Library art project, the week before that to a neuroscientist. I like talking with people, so it’s probably time I start a conversation on here. Here, where my teenage writing matures. Where the evidence of my evolution sits under glass.

These are the coordinates of my life right now, as it stands: I hurt my ankle a few weeks back tumbling, and I’ve been staying up until 6.00am for the Olympic gymnastics – all the while wishing I could jump again. I still prefer sunsets over sunrises. I’m in the final hour of the audiobook The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I’ve got the business card of a NASA engineer sitting in front of me on my desk, next to my lapel pins shaped like stars. It’s 1.04am and I have an important email to send in the morning. I’m in my final semester of university. There’s a new This American Life episode waiting for me, but I can’t bring myself to listen to anything titled My Summer Self while I’m still wearing finger-less gloves. I ordered six second-hand Ray Bradbury paperbacks this afternoon. I still don’t know if writing things down is helpful for me or for anyone else. I’m going to sit in the sun tomorrow and listen to Neutral Milk Hotel and the soundtrack to In the Heights. I’m not going to check this for spelling errors.

My reasoning behind all of these sentences of admittance, is an intersection of occurrences. Last night I wrote a poem to my favourite author, who I’ve posthumously adopted as an unwitting mentor. I don’t think it made sense, not unless you’re someone who is well-versed in Fahrenheit 451 trivia or the tales of Dandelion Wine. But when I posted it on here, on my scribbled home, it got half a dozen likes. I wonder too much – too much not to ask – whether anyone actually reads anything on here. I need to know if you have, and I truly want to know what you think.

This is an offering – a short but concise map to my life right now. It’s a gesture. I’m letting you know that you have access to parts of my life, the same as you do my writing. And to let you know that it would be great to talk to you about fascinating things.

 

Stuff Your Eyes with Wonder

so every other week I go to this second-hand bookstore and I

head to sci-fi/fantasy/horror because I know where the letters line up

and where you are, or where you should be, at eye height between

the a’s and c’s.

 

yesterday I went to the counter to ask a woman if you were hiding

somewhere else amongst the stacks, maybe you had snuck somewhere

beneath the bookshelf where they stock their extra paperbacks

just out of reach.

 

I remember rummaging my father’s bookshelf looking for you

and all I found was your preface in a 1989 anthology titled Foundation’s Friends

and you said Isaac was in the mountain-moving business, but he did not move

but eat them.

 

and when a friend handed you to me in a library and you told me

I would pay by the half-hour for my words and I would be sleepless

but if someone didn’t see value in my hunger I should pick up my dinosaurs

and leave the room.

 

and you taught me that new tennis shoes make a summer endless,  that

rain can kill if you let it, that stars are addictive when you have a rocket

full of fuel and a home to crash into, with dandelion wine to drink

in the basement.

 

the woman said she would call me when someone else gives you up, that

they don’t print many of you anymore and so maybe you are on Mars with Poe

waiting for everyone to forget you, so I want to tell you that I’m pacing

back and forth in the dust.

 

I remember, I remember, I remember something else. What is it?

Yes, yes, part of Ecclesiastes. Part of Ecclesiastes and Revelation. Part of

that book, part of it, quick now, quick before it gets away,

before the wind dies.

 

This poem is in response to my favourite short story, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury by Neil Gaiman, and to my favourite author.

Inhale and Exhale: Legally Blonde the Essay

Do you ever have those moments where your breathing mutates? Because it happens to me a lot. My breathing turns from a handy automatic function to a process I’m aware of—instead of just breathing, I’m inhaling and exhaling and inhaling and exhaling. My lungs don’t work on their own. I have to force them. If I don’t I’ll collapse. Fall into a heap. But inhaling and exhaling stretches past my lungs, my intercostal muscles, my ribs, and my diaphragm. Wherever I am: brain, nervous system, eyes, nose, ears, mouth, tongue, hands—and whoever I am: human, girl, idiot—that person, trapped in a tangle of matter and limbs, needs to breathe too. I need to inhale the world around me and exhale my own reality.

Sometimes I can breathe OUT a whole heap of stuff, like art, fun science facts, short stories, and point of views, but other times what I really need is to breathe IN. And something what I need to breathe in, is this: Elle Woods strutting into Harvard, kicking butt, and being herself. What I need to breathe in is Legally Blonde.

At the right time Legally Blonde can be like oxygen to me—where oxygen atoms are made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons, Legally Blonde is made of uncompromised belief, unassailable femininity, and one of the best darn example of onscreen Shine Theory—the “I don’t shine if you don’t shine” approach to female friendship—to come out of the early 2000s. For a human-girl-idiot, it’s life-giving.

READ THE FULL ESSAY ON POP CULTURE PUKE

Jupiter’s Big Day!

In Ancient Roman mythology, Jupiter claimed domain over the sky and the thunder. He cloaked himself in cloud to hide his mischief— but his wife, Juno, could see past it all. It’s no accident that NASA named a spacecraft after her (though they did give the craft a backronym in an attempt to cover their sentimental tracks), or that she has been zipping through space at almost 19 miles per second for the past five years, her sights set on Jupiter and it’s mysteries.

Juno snuck its way into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th. At 11:18 PM Eastern Time the main engine started firing, slowing the spacecraft enough so it could fall into the planet’s orbit. At 11:53 PM, those engines were shut off. Almost four hundred million miles away, NASA received a three-second beep to reassure them that the spacecraft had made it into orbit in one piece. Juno project manager Rick Nybakken told the room: “We just did the hardest thing NASA’s ever done.”

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PHOTO CREDIT: NASA/JPL

Dear Diary

should I start dating these entries?

I keep asking, but

bringing a date and a time into all this mess

would be an intrusion

and this year

it doesn’t deserve to be written                     because

it’s been a heartbreaker for the whole planet          because

this is what it’s like to embrace all of something              because

love for this world means to be invested in the blood and the birdsong

Batten Down the Hatches: The Rise of the Cephalopod

Off the coast of Norway and Greenland lies the memory of the hopefully-fictional Kraken, a Giant Squid capable of snapping a galleon sailing ship in two. The storybook sea monster takes up the ocean, its tentacles reaching for unassuming sailors and its heart set on destruction. If the Kraken had been real—if it had existed today, alongside its brethren of very-real Giant Squid—eager scientists would call it a cephalopod.

The oceans are a cephalopod’s stomping ground—squid, octopus, and cuttlefish can be found in the waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic oceans. They’re feisty and adaptable, adorable and terrifying, and according to astudy published last week in Current Biology, our squishy, tentacled friends are thriving.

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ART BY: Alex Hanson