Dark Matter Theory and the Rate of Technological Evolution

Today’s post is a change of pace from my usual travel material.  While on the road and commuting I often enjoy musing and listening to various podcasts. I’m also voraciously curious which leads to soaking up a wealth of different science news. There have been two ideas that hit me while out and about a few months back and which have been nagging at me ever since. Today during dinner I found myself listening to Priyamvada Natarajan‘s Edge.org talk about “The Exquisite Role of Dark Matter” which reminded me of my hair-brained Dark Matter theory (see below) and which in turn re-surfaced thoughts surrounding my musings on the role population growth has played in changing our rate of technological innovation as a species.

To be clear, these are just very general “theories” based on my musings and a random assortment of connections I’ve drawn between different material I’ve been consuming.  I’m presenting them here, as briefly and simply as I can, because I’d love your discussion, input, and help in finding existing theories that they align with, research that disproves them, or input on what aspects are genuinely of interest to help me progress the mental exercise which both represent. So, I want to reiterate – I am not a scientist. I am not an astrophysicist. I am just a curious Communication Major with a few years of post-degree dust between my ears and a wild imagination.  The “research” and “science” these theories are based on, is only minimally investigated (by me), very possibly utterly misunderstood (by me), and/or my conclusions could be entirely based on causation not correlation.  So, with that heavy disclaimer in mind, my challenge to those of you who are interested is to A) educate me OR B) put on your research caps and see what supporting data you can find for one or both of these ideas.

Galileo Jovilabe

Theory 1 – Dark Matter Black Hole Conversion Theory

Recently Stephen Hawking proposed that matter can escape the event horizon of a black hole. Simultaneously we have Dark Matter which is an invisible form of matter that has a significant gravitational impact on the universe, seems to be increasing, and potentially shapes the expansion of the universe.

The theory, in a nutshell, is that once a black hole is formed, the gravitational pull swallows up matter from the surrounding universe. However, if we stick with the assumption that matter cannot be destroyed, it can only change states, then we re-visit two of the most common explanations for what happens to matter that enters a black hole: explanation 1 has been that it is infinitely compressed as time slows infinitely. Explanation 2, which I’ve always liked, is that it tears a hole in space-time and generates a White Hole in a parallel universe. This essentially creates a Big-Bang like event which is fed by matter coming through the black-white bridge.

Both of these presume that matter cannot escape the event horizon of a black hole.  But, what if it’s not that simple. What if matter CAN escape the event horizon, just not in the state it enters in. Extreme pressure creates all sorts of changes in the state of matter. Take extreme pressure, and combine it with gravity based time-distortion. What if this is actually how Dark Matter is formed – a form of matter that changes states and becomes a new form of matter that then escapes (or is ejected) from the event-horizon of the black hole.

This escaping Dark Matter retains its metamorphosed state after exiting the black hole, but still has sufficient mass to interact with other/existing dark matter and visible matter simultaneously. Only the impact of the dark matter’s gravity is partially cloaked by the pull of the black hole which counteracts whatever ripple or circular dispersion effect you’d otherwise expect to see.

The Dark Matter is not being ejected into a void, but rather into an existing sea of Dark Matter. Similar to the air inside the earth’s atmosphere, or water in the oceans, natural currents and eddies form. These are influenced by the mass and composition of Dark Matter, but also – same as the impact of weather and existing landmasses on the sea’s currents, are impacted by visible matter and black holes with their own gravitational pulls.

In this way, the origin, dispersion and coalescence of Dark Matter is explained while accounting for what happens to matter that has been consumed by a black hole.

Related: Visualizations of Dark Matter “pools”.

Istiklal Avenue - Istanbul, Turkey

Theory 2 – Population Growth’s Impact on Human Innovation

I’ve always been fascinated by Moore’s Law and just how much my paternal grandfather saw over the course of his lifetime (1900-1987).  Why? Moore’s Law, which turned 50 this year, predicts that generally speaking computing power will double every two years. My Grandfather, who was born in 1900, lived during one of the fastest periods of innovation in the history of humanity and saw and adapted to a lot of amazing things. I find the thought of what he lived through to be captivating. Especially when compared to my own life and what I have already witnessed and can expect to witness over the next 60 or so years.

I’ve seen quite a bit of research that focuses on individual efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to innovation. After all, a computer most definitely increases what a lone individual can accomplish. As does a University education. But, at the end of the day, there is no greater or more efficient engine for innovation than the human mind.

The theory I’ve been toying with revolves around population growth:

Population Growth

(Source data)

Throughout the majority of human history population growth has been relatively limited and fairly stable. However, around 1800 we passed the 1 billion population mark.  Not too long after 1900 we doubled that and have seen meteoric growth ever since.  My curiosity and hypothesis is that this growth should also translate directly into human innovation. If in 1800 we had 1 billion people living, working and innovating, and in 2013 we have 7 billion people living, working and innovating even if the base technology and level education remained the same (which it hasn’t) we should in theory see a similarly expansive uptake in innovation across our society. Right?  In effect, meaning that at the very least, we should be experiencing and seeing innovations at a pace 7x faster than we saw in 1800.  Innovative growth which in turn will further be supplemented by each newly invented technology (books, internet, computers, etc.).

Now, I fully realize that you have to take into account various secondary factors – a starving child (or adult) in the Central African Republic may be somewhat less likely to be in a situation where they can take equal advantage of the education and tools that a well-fed child born into a College educated family in the US can. But, that more people currently live in more widely disparate conditions than during previous generations, also means radically more opportunities for innovation. There may be barriers to the dispersion of those ideas (eg: war / poverty) but those are still less likely to be barriers than what humanity faced historically. More voices also does make it more likely that a lone voice gets ignored, but it also provides more ears and opportunities for that voice to find sympathetic ears. Again, another trade-off with as much upside potential as downside potential.

I find it strange that this approach to looking at societal innovation has not been more widely discussed or codified in existing theory or that if it has, it hasn’t made it into our cultural discourse. Particularly around technological and scientific innovation.  This is where I’d love your input and guidance on what theories currently exist that may have expressed, explored, and more scientifically investigated the overlap between population growth and species-level innovation and knowledge creation.

Remember, this is just a bit of fun. So, let’s have it. What do you think?


Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.


  1. You write “Only the impact of the dark matter’s gravity is partially cloaked by the pull of the black hole” except that ‘the pull of the black hole’ IS gravity, so you’re saying that the gravity of the dark matter is cloaked by the gravity of the black hole. As far as we know, there are not two kinds of gravity that can hide each other, and gravities are demonstrably additive, so this is logically inconsistent.

    You’ve also invented a new Luminiferous Ether (albeit a dark one) which is affected BY visible matter to form eddies, yet which itself has no effect ON that same matter. There are no asymmetric force relationships like this in the universe. This violates both Newton’s third law and AND second law of thermodynamics, as well as offending the most fundamental nature of philosophy.

    I think a more interesting interpretation of Dark Matter is that doesn’t exist at all, and that gravity is brane-bound relatively poorly, causing gravitons to leak out of our universe and accelerating the expansion of the universe in that way. Maybe there isn’t missing mass, there’s actually too little gravity. The results would look the same.

    On the other topic of the seemingly missing innovation, you have to remember the low-hanging fruit concept where all the easy stuff gets invented relatively quickly in a short space of time. We see this during the industrial revolution in the time period you indicate. Quickly, however, the technology and insight needed to make further equally profound discoveries starts to compound. Only a hundred years ago a clever physicist in an average laboratory could discover something fundamental and novel about the nature of matter with a small vial of nitrogren. Today it takes a decade or more for thousands of scientists operating a machine half the size of Switzerland, smashing atoms at energies so terrifying that politicians wonder whether it should be shut down, to discover a hint of something that maybe, possibly, has in indication of being interesting. In short: with a few exceptions all the easy stuff has been done. From now on, it only gets harder to innovate. Steam engines, aeroplanes and gravity were quite simple. The higgs boson, the internet and the Moon landing were very hard. String theory, teleportation and warp drives are probably impossible…

    • Barrington – thanks for the thoughts. Concerning cloaked gravity. Definitely imprecise language usage on my part. The meaning being that the impact of gravity exerted from the Dark Matter particle (per particle) is extremely low. In this sense, there are essentially three groups exerting gravity, which is definitely additive, but could be repelled by some other force. Still, if we eliminate any repelling force, and just go with ejection/escaping the event horizon, the three actors exerting gravity are going to be the black hole (most significant), any captured objects such as planets and small suns (less significant), and then the gravity of the Dark Matter (nearly imperceptible). I see it as something that is in a way equivalent to phytoplankton. Imperceptible, until gathered in absolute masses.

      RE: Luminiferous Ether – wasn’t familiar with that. Thank you. What I’m envisioning is a bit different though if I’m understanding it correctly. We already know that Dark Matter or something like it causes gravity based lensing. Also, the entire theory itself is based around the fact that the Dark Matter does in fact act upon the matter surrounding it. Just at nearly imperceptible levels unless aggregated in massive amounts (eg: galaxy size eddies). If Dark Matter is fundamental to the expansion of the universe, that is the impact of the Dark Matter on visible matter. To a degree, it’s a bit like a hot air balloon slowly filling up.

      P3 – interesting.

      Concerning innovation.

      I definitely considered low-hanging fruit, but I don’t buy it. It’s true that basic innovations have mostly been discovered. But there are basic innovations that don’t use advanced computations or tools which are still made on a regular basis, parallel to those made using any range of the tools and knowledge of these tools we have available to us.

      Elements 71-118 were all discovered since 1900 and many of the modern scientific discoveries in medicine are coming out of old Asian remedies and the like.

      As our knowledge and tool base expands, the base line for what is a simple and basic tool also advances. For every village in rural Africa that doesn’t have access to a cell phone, there are two or three that do.

      Add to that, that with the increase in population you have a similar increase in the odds of Savants being born. Given were’ only killing them for being witches and heretic in a relatively small slice of the world this increases the opportunities for Einstein-like advancements.

      Even if we do assume that to take full advantage of the true weight of the population advantage we need technology, the US and Europe alone have more people with access to many of those tools than the entire human population in existence two hundred years ago.

      While I agree that some items have very prohibitive cost barriers (eg CERN) there are many other aspects that are actually much more accessible. It’s true that the Hubble itself required billions of dollars and a monumental effort. But the data and images that it captured were then crowd-sourced and distributed in a way that would have been previously impossible or cost prohibitive before the internet, computers and high speed internet.

      The same can be said for the mapping of DNA. When you look at what it took in 2001 to do one partial mapping vs. what can be done today and the relative size and cost of that device.

      Same with space travel. etc. etc. etc. – invention and innovation is happening constantly. The flashy stuff often requires big budgets and limited access…initially, but that’s because it is at the leading edge. I can make a few purchases online and send a camera to low earth orbit today. 100 years ago we were engaging in early flight programs.

  2. Interesting. Im going to stay with the dark matter thought, since thats more my ball park.

    I like your idea. I really do 🙂
    But as I see it, it has two problems:

    1) Mass budget:
    Every black hole has a mass budget. It gains mass from pulling in mass through gravity, and it looses mass through Hawking radiation.
    Small black holes are generated all the time, e.g. in the CERN accelerator, but they loose more mass to Hawking radiation than they can gain, and so they disappear – luckily, since we would otherwise have a universe consisting only of black holes.
    Now, for massive black holes, they must receive more mass than they loose, else they too would disappear. Since Hawking radiation (of ordinary matter) already accounts for a major mass loss, im not sure there is room in the mass budget for additional mass to disappear as dark matter. (With dark matter somewhat uniformly dispersed through our galaxies, if black holes produced dark matter, the dark matter would have to leave the black hole somehow).
    One idea is then, that Hawking radiation is the reaction which produces the dark matter. But since hawking radiation is a somewhat well described process, which predicts that a black hole emits electromagnetic radiation (“light”), the theory doesnt leave much room for “mass” being radiated out.

    2) Time:
    Since there is 5 times the amount of dark matter in the universe: 26,8%, as the amount of normal matter: 4,9% (dark energy making up for the remaining 68,3%), the process of converting normal mass into dark matter would have to be a very quick process (if we assume all matter was normal to begin with).
    But the forming of dark holes has only speeded up through the history of the universe. Which would mean that dark matter production would be at its highest at present day. But the amount of mass that dark holes swallow over time at present, is (to my knowledge) not anywhere high enough to justify that 4/5 of the universe has disappeared in this manner in our universe up until now.

    But this is all just speculation of course. It was just some thoughts that came to me, when I started giving your idea some more speculating 🙂

    • 1) Very interesting. As I understand it, right now we really don’t have any good way to identify Dark Matter outside of general lensing and gravitation effect which requires extremely large amounts, right? Making it extremely difficult to identify if micro black holes might be emitting anything. Though that also assumes that the micro-black holes are on a time frame that would allow for the conversion and the dark matter to escape or to be ejected from the black hole’s event horizon.

      Have you ever seen any mapping of Dark Matter overlaid against black holes and other large planetary bodies?

      2) As I understand it, many of the existing theories surrounding black holes predict a change in black hole behavior or longevity as the universe has aged and dispersed. If you had a more compact universe earlier post big-bang, then perhaps you’d also have an increased timeline for black hole attraction, consumption, and conversion. As the ejected dark matter drove the universe apart, the process itself would slow, reducing how quickly the average black hole was fed, its size, and intensity. This in turn slowing the rate of conversion and production of Dark Matter? Not sure if that follows or even remotely makes sense with what we know and can see from the early universe.

      • 1) Well, dark matter is mainly predicted by observing galaxies. Predicting their mass from the observable light emitted, gives a result which turns out to much lower than the mass needed to keep the galaxy together, at the velocity its spinning. And so there must be some mass, which doesnt give off light (radiation), but still adds to the gravitational pull, so that the galaxy stays together.

        Which means you are right: its very difficult to observe on smaller scales than that of objects like a galaxy. So I dont think its possible to map compared to a black hole, which is infinitely smaller than a galaxy. But to my knowledge the dark matter is not centered around the super massive black hole in the center of a galaxy, but is spread out uniformly.

        Interesting thought though: perhaps its not the massive black holes doing the work, but instead an infinite amount of ever appearing and colapsing tiny black holes, that slowly transform matter to dark matter. This would also explain why the dark matter is spread out uniformly.

        2) Im not sure im knowledgeable enough to speak to this particular theory. 🙂
        One thing though, about the sentence: “As the ejected dark matter drove the universe apart”
        Dark matter (to our knowledge) only works through gravity, that is, it pulls things together. Dark energy is the one that drives the universe apart (and the the two concepts have very little in common, except the names)
        So im not sure the dark matter itself would slow down the gravitational forces swallowing everything into black holes.
        But of course a major change in the universe, like the inflation event, could do the trick.

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