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Theoretical physicist Janna Levin's musings on the invisible stuff called dark matter provide inspiration for artist Daniela Sherer's imaginative illustrations in a new animated video. 

In the short movie, which is only a little more than a minute long, Sherer's illustrations play over an audio clip of Levin talking about the great mystery of dark matter, a substance that does not interact with or emit light and whose composition remains unknown. 

  • Yes, it's only a matter of time and technology to see these elusive targets.
  • Maybe, but scientists may debate the discovery for years before it is accepted.
  • No, there are some things in this universe humans are not meant to understand.
Levin, a professor of physics at Barnard College in New York, sounds as if she were discussing this profound mystery with a friend over coffee; she's certainly not delivering a technical science lecture. She points out that "dark matter" is just a name given to something that scientists don't understand. She winds up talking about the strange existential implication of discovering that all of the "regular" matter that makes up everything we see and know constitutes a very small percentage of what's contained in the universe.  

Sherer limited the video's color palette to black, a few shades of gray and beige, and teal. With simple line drawings, she managed to amplify Levin's thoughts about the intriguing and bizarre nature of dark matter, and then a feeling of slight dismay regarding the discovery that "regular" matter is "kind of like an ashy residue left over from the Big Bang, like we're just residual dust."

In the video, Levin says that "regular" matter makes up less than 5 percent of all matter in the universe and that dark matter constitutes 25 percent. That terminology may be a bit confusing because the other 70 percent or so is dark energy, which is the name scientists have given to the "engine" that's driving the acceleration of the universe's expansion. Albert Einstein showed that energy and mass are two different forms of the same thing, which is what the famous equation e=mc2 (e=energy, m=mass) means. So that's why a scientist like Levin some include dark energy and dark matter in the same pie chart of "matter" in the universe. 

The audio clip of Levin was pulled from the Massive audio series episode "Condensed Matters." 

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