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The Big Picture

Apr 15, 2011

"What's new in the cosmos?" we asked one of Max's friends's moms, an astronomer. "Well, the Milky Way is on a collision course with Andromeda," she said cheerily. "But that won't happen for a few billion years, though our dark halos are already overlapping now." And then she explained that those halos are part of the dark matter – the mysterious and massive particles thought to make up a large part of the universe – that so far have eluded being "seen." "But we're getting closer and closer to actually figuring out what it is," she said excitedly.

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Now here's a perspective – the long view — that I don't think about every day. Caught up in day-to-day issues and the arresting problems of midlife, I don't always think about the bigger picture. But I'm glad that other people do. In fact, there's a new lab in Italy, which houses a dark matter detector, buried under a mile of rock and tons of stone (which it's believed only dark particles are able to penetrate) that is working right now to observe this mysterious substance.

And then I wonder if in some distant galaxy or planet there is life like ours. Or perhaps a parallel universe, where instead of hot flashes at midlife there are cold ones, and instead of insomnia during perimenopause there is the reverse – a form of narcolepsy. Where women are revered at midlife and celebrated. Now here's a science fiction movie I'd watch.

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