Mysterious Crystals and Dark Matter Galaxies

It’s been a great week for the science behind the science fiction behind the Embodied Trilogy. A huge population of ultra dark galaxies has been discovered. And the reason they’re ultra dark? Guinness! No, wait – dark matter!

I’ve almost finished writing the third and final book in the series, and dark matter is a key story component. These galaxies are chock full of the stuff. As it says in the article, “The authors of that study used this information to put an upper limit on the percentage of dark matter in the UDGs, but it was very high – up to 98 percent.”

Samarium hexaboride, doing its crazy thing.

This might be samarium hexaboride, doing its crazy thing.

Another recurring element in the trilogy is crystals (specifically formed into pyramids and spheres). And, wouldn’t you know it, this week scientist have discovered a property of an already super-duper-mysterious crystal called samarium hexaboride that is baffling physicists. Although insulators and metals are essentially opposites, Cambridge University physicist Suchitra Sebastian explained that somehow samarium hexaboride is “a material that’s both. It’s contrary to everything that we know.” The article in Wired explains: “Calling to mind the famous wave-particle duality of quantum mechanics, the new evidence suggests SmB6 might be neither a textbook metal nor an insulator … but ‘something more complicated that we don’t know how to imagine.’”

Things that we “don’t know how to imagine” are meat and drink to any science fiction writer, but it’s especially exciting when something you’re working on right now reflects the latest real-world research. On the other hand, the Embodied Trilogy is soft sci-fi, not a prediction of the future, so don’t expect beings from an ultra dark galaxy to show up anytime soon juggling crazy liquid crystal balls.

I found the animated GIF above on a web page covering the same subject. I don’t know if it’s samarium hexaboride (and I wish I could credit the creator) but it’s so fascinating and science-fictiony that I had to post it here.