Did Dark Matter Kill the Dinosaurs?: Redux

The New York Times has picked up the story about a recent paper talking about whether or not dark matter could have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs (as well as several other famous mass extinctions). I’m not sure why the piece is being printed now, since the paper was in the news a month ago.

My general position on such work is still the same: These kinds of papers are fun thought experiments working out possible real-world effects of things like dark matter and neutrinos but are highly unlikely to actually be true.

I’m not a big fan of the way the Times post is written. It seems to be trying to craft a narrative out of several papers in recent months about dark matter and extinctions (there are two different mechanisms discussed: (1) heating up the planet’s core and causing volcanism and (2) kicking objects out of the Oort belt that then hit Earth) and even about dark matter and cancer. These kinds of ideas have been discussed for decades and are actually all very different things that just happen to all involve dark matter. There’s not really any evidence that the papers are at all related.

That said, I think the main purpose of the paper is really just to give some information about dark matter to the public. While many people have heard of it, few have any real understanding of what is meant by the term “dark matter.” I think the author is using these fanciful papers to pull in readers in order to tell them a bit about some of the more grounded science being done on dark matter. Public outreach is almost always a good thing, especially in a field like physics, which often seems quite esoteric to the general public.

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One thought on “Did Dark Matter Kill the Dinosaurs?: Redux”

  1. I agree with your position on these topics; they could be true, but it just relies on so much to be right to be convincingly true. I actually read Rampino’s paper, and though I like his connection of astrophysics to geology and the such, I still need more evidence of its plausibility.

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