Human origin has always been a topic up for discussion, and the answers to the questions of where we came from vary. An astrophysicist would probably say that we're made up of stardust, whereas an evolutionary biologist would perhaps say that we evolved from our fellow primates: the apes.
Although several ideas are somewhat connected in one way or another, scientists are left with the gaps to expound. Harvard physicist Lisa Randall attempts to fill in those spaces, presenting a hypothesis where dark matter caused the extinction of dinosaurs, which was necessary for human evolution to advance.
Randall is not only a professor, who studies particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, but she is also an author, who wrote the New York Times bestseller "Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions" in September 2006.
In her recent book "Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe," Randall applies her research of dark matter to explain how the mysterious substance is linked to life on Earth. Astronomers speculate that dark matter makes up 85 percent of all matter in the universe.
If you ask a paleontologist what caused the dinosaurs' end 66 million years ago, they would probably say that it was because of an enormous object that hit the Earth, wiping the dinosaurs out along with 75 percent of the other species. They proposed that the said object was a nine-mile-long comet, but where did it come from, and how did it happen? Randall suggests that it was because of dark matter.
"[I]t was a comet that was dislodged from its orbit as the Solar System passed through a disk of dark matter embedded in the Milky Way. In a sense, it might have been dark matter that killed the dinosaurs," reads the description of "Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs."
Despite never having directly detected dark matter, it has been determined to have an immense gravitational influence. Randall suggests that there's a dark matter disk somewhere in the galaxy, and if there is, then Earth would go through its plane every 32 million years, which is also the estimated time that our solar system passes through the Milky Way's plane.
The dark matter's gravity affects the Oort cloud, which is the outer zone of the solar system that's positioned between approximately 90 billion and 9 trillion miles from the sun, and it is believed to have billions of huge icy objects. According to Randall, the dark matter's effect on the Oort cloud creates giant objects that can potentially wipe out all life on the planet, which is where the dinosaur-exterminating comet came from.
Randall hopes that the link between human origin and dark matter will open up opportunities of understanding the substance better, determining where to conduct studies for a fruitful research in the future.
Photo: Yosuke Shimizu | Flickr