August 3, 2013 3:48 pm

This Sunday, Neil deGrasse Tyson Sheds a Little Light on Dark Energy and Dark Matter

Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation map by WMAP and NASA

According to WMAP, our universe is composed of 96% dark energy and dark matter, and only 4% atoms. Credit: WMAP Science Team, NASA.

If you’re the kind of person who regrets, just a little, the solving of a long-standing scientific mystery, then 2013’s confirmation of the Higgs boson may have left you a little down. But never fear, because there’s a longer-standing, universally significant mystery that’s still plaguing scientists: dark matter and dark energy, which was first theorized in the 1930s.

Together, they account for 96% of the universe, according to NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which measured cosmic microwave background radiation (the oldest light in the universe, stretching back to only about 380,000 years after the Big Bang) and produced the new Standard Model of Cosmology. You’ve probably already seen the now-famous image above, and you may even have figured that if they’ve got it mapped, then we’ll unravel the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter any day now.

Not so fast. It turns out we know surprisingly little about something that makes up surprisingly much of our universe. In fact, in this Sunday’s episode of StarTalk Radio, Cosmic Queries: Dark Matter and Dark Energy, there were a surprisingly high number of times when astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson answered the fan questions read by comic co-host Leighann Lord with, “We don’t know.”

Maybe the biggest surprise of all is how much we do know about something that doesn’t even interact with ordinary matter, making it just a little tough to study, measure and even capture. For instance, we know how it affects the rotation of galaxies, and what would happen if it disappeared. We know whether the amount of dark matter is increasing as the universe expands. We know if there are any connections between dark matter and black holes. And that’s not all we know.

To find out the rest, you’ll have to listen to the show this Sunday night at 7PM ET on iTunes and right here on the website. The podcast is also available on our channels on Stitcher and Soundcloud (although it usually takes between 15-30 minutes longer for the show to end up there).

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons