"Dark Matters" - Incredible Simulations of an Invisible Universe

At the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, scientists are using massive computer simulations to create 3-D movies to visualize and study dark matter in ways that almost let you reach out and grasp the stars -- as well as entire galaxies.

The Researcher

Tom Abel

DARK MATTER MAKES UP 85% OF THE UNIVERSE and is responsible for its underlying structure. Yet it doesn't emit or absorb light. We can only observe how it pulls and tugs on other things. In this PBS video produced for Science Bytes, scientists at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University reveal how they are pioneering new visualization methods, based on massive computer simulations, that allow them to see and study dark matter in ways that have never before been possible.

Watch Dark Matters on PBS. See more from Science Bytes.

"Because we don't have a traditional laboratory, I can't take the sun, throw it into a big black hole and see what happens," explains KIPAC's Tom Abel. Instead, they use computers that take billions of calculations to create simulations of incredible complexity. Said Risa Wechsler, a scientist at KIPAC, "In the more detailed simulations that we're doing, we're actually forming galaxies that look like the galaxies we see. And the visualizations allow us to understand where we got it right and where we got it wrong." She also notes that by doing it in three dimensions, it's possible to see things that would otherwise not been seen. "When [we] first saw this, I think we all just stood there in awe."


Science Bytes is a collaboration between Kikim Media, the Public Library of Science and the Public Broadcasting Service. "Science Byties is based on a simple premise: scientists around the world are making incredible breakthroughs on an almost daily basis, but most of us never hear about their discoveries. Either their work gets published in prohibitively expensive scientific journals, or the articles are written in a style that’s so technical and esoteric it’s virtually incomprehensible. And that’s where we come in. We’ve been making science documentaries for public television for many years, and we’re going to use the skills we’ve developed making those programs to translate some of today’s most interesting scientific articles into short videos you can watch online." Addition presentations are posted at PBS Video and Science Bytes.


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