March 18, 2021

Episode 6 - The one where we answer the question of whether ghosts exist, and for that matter, does dark matter? We diagnose Bruno Mars with lagophthalmos in his song Grenade

This week's Brainy Lecture looks at Dark matter and we are made to feel insignificant when we find out that the known universe is down to  0.6% of the total. We try and cheer ourselves up with Bob Dylan's poultry themed song, Lay Lady Lay before Bruno Mars makes us feel sad again. Then we get happy once more as we contemplate the Asian Conical hat and our sweet and sour red pepper sauce. In Literally the Last section we find several Shakespeare works that are in contravention of common HR practices.


Episode 6


Hello, and welcome to Frenzied and Sustained

In this week’s podcast for a post stupid society we make the case for dark matter. We finally provide an answer  to the ancient question of whether or not ghosts actually exist. In Songs under the microscope we discuss Bruno Mar’s song “Grenade” involving the medical condition lagophthalmos. We also get to the truth about why Bob Dylan’s Lady is not a Lay Lady Laying. In a sauce a sauce my kingdom for a sauce we make a super intense sweet and sour red pepper sauce.

Our hat of the week is found all across southern Asia and is as functional as it is beautiful.  In Literally the last section we look into Shakespearean plays that have not aged well, I am looking at you “Taming of the Shrew”

But kicking us off this week we have our

Brainy Lecture

Do Ghosts Exist?

Last week we said that we would provide the definitive answer to the question of whether ghosts exist. And the answer is.

No, of course they don’t. Grow Up.

So onto this week’s matter in hand, Dark Matter

You may have spotted that I am a little irritated this week. The reason is I have been the subject of a robbery, in fact they robbed me of 96% of all that I owned.

The thing is, I left school and all the universe could be explained in terms of protons, neutrons and electrons, together with a few exotic articles and some force carrying bosons. That was it, all sewn up. The entire universe and all the elements could be constructed from these three particles. You could combine them to make Tesla Model X, Nike Air Max, Dolphins, The Miami Dolphins, bridges, planets, stars, and Panama Hats.

Then the millennials came along and said that my universe is now only 4% protons, neutrons and electrons and the other 96% is either dark matter or dark energy. Just as they were letting that sink in the somehow made it worse by saying the of my remaining 4%, 3.6% was interstellar dust. So now I am just left with 0.4% so you can see why I am miffed.

So the kids have lost 96% of the universe. The missing stuff is considered to be 73% Dark Energy and 23% Dark Matter.

Today we are going to focus on Dark Matter.

So the obvious response is 

are you sure?

 followed by 

what is dark matter?

I need to level with you, we don’t really have much of an idea what Dark Matter is, and there are many in the scientific community who do not think that it exists at all.

Let me give you an insight into struggle we are having, the theories predict that the size for the Dark Matter particle ranges in size from 180 billion times smaller than the electron and on the top end, the size of the earth. Oh, and if only the Dark Matter had the common decency to be Dark. I think if a dark particle the size of the earth wafted between me and my keyboard I may claim it as found and decide where to put my Nobel Prize. It is invisible.  And we have never detected it interact with any of our matter. 

I have already promised you a podcast on Dark Energy, but this is not it - baby steps. Dark Energy is a solution to the strange case of the newly expanding universe. How 7.5 billion years ago everything in the universe started flying apart at a much faster rate. This force is so strong that all our large scale structures will cease to grow. The galaxies and clusters of gravity will manage to stick together due to mutual attraction from gravity, but those that have not yet become bound will never find partners, they will simply accelerate away from each other to spend a lonely existence in the great nothingness.

So, Ian, I hear you ask, there is some invisible stuff that doesn’t react with anything, you seem mighty confident that it exists, and didn’t you already say that dark matter was invented as your beloved Einstein’s General Relativity needed it to explain the speed of galactic rotation. Thank you fictitious, but attentive, listener. Let’s try and put the case for Dark Matter.

So yes, some of the earliest and most compelling evidence we had have for Dark Matter’s existence comes from the ways that galaxies rotate. Our sun is in the middle of the milky way, 27 000 light years from the centre and 25 000 light years to the rim. It is moving around milky way at around 220 kilometres per second so a galactic year is 230 million earth years.

Now imagine your cup of coffee. If you put your spoon in the centre and give it a good stir you will see the centre moving at the speed of the spoon and the coffee near the edge moving much slower. Then the millennials lost 96% of the universe and we noticed that the stars at the edge of our galaxy, and hundreds of others we measured, are moving way too fast, in fact they are moving the same speed as we are. Given the known mass of the galaxies, at that speed the other stars and dust should be flung off. To stay together there needs to be a stronger force of gravity. The only way we could get the models of General Relativity to work was if we added another 23% of mass into all the galaxies and suddenly Einstein’s reputation was safe. Now General Relativity has been challenged countless times over the decades and Einstein always comes out on top at the end. So this is considered to be very strong evidence.

Another big piece was when we watched two galaxy clusters collide. We observe  the Bullet Cluster, with normal matter forming a comet shape as it interacts with the normal matter of the cluster it is hitting. The dark matter sails right through and is detected ahead of the cluster ( inferred via gravitational lensing).

The next evidence comes in the clumping of our 4%. When the universe was young and hot everything was pretty uniformly distributed there was about the same amount of stuff everywhere.

The theoretical astronomers built models of how a huge amount of dark matter in the early  universe would coagulate and clump. The dark matter collapses under gravity forming dense clouds of stuff we call halos and that's what it looks like now these sorts of dots are all individual galaxies or halos around galaxies and then the big clumps of clumps those are clusters of galaxies or super clusters. The astonishing thing is if you compared the results of the simulation to the map of the firmaments you would not be able to tell them apart  and we don't have an explanation for that unless there's dark matter.

And before we rest our case for the prosecution the final piece of evidence comes from the enduring photo of the remnants of the big bang, the  Cosmic Microwave Background.

Three or four hundred thousand years after the Big Bang the universe was five thousand degrees in temperature everywhere. At these temperatures atoms can no longer keep it together and they are shaken apart the electrons and the protons don't stick together anymore. You just have a sea of electrons and protons floating free. When the universe cooled a bit  solid atoms could form and when they did it they released a flash of energy that we can still see and that is the Cosmic Microwave Background.

This gives us a tremendous insight into what the universe looked like immediately after the big bang and how it has evolved ever since. The very uneven temperatures in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation were modelled by varying the amount of atoms in the universe and adding Dark Energy and Dark Matter until we get the best possible fit and when we do that we reach this conclusion about 85% of all the matter in the universe isn't atoms it's this other stuff we call dark matter.

So cosmologists reviewed all the evidence and voted to convict the universe of Dark Matter on a Majority verdict.

So if there is all this non-atomic matter why can’t we see it. Perhaps the right question is why can we perceive ordinary matter.  When I look around the studio why can I detect lights, why can I feel these walls and why does not my hand go straight through after all my hand is basically empty space. The fraction of the volume of my hand that atoms are actively occupying is minuscule and the same thing is true about the wall so when I put my hand into the wall you might have expected that my hand should have passed straight through it but it doesn’t. The answer is  electromagnetism. 

It turns out that there's a lot of stuff with electric charge in my hand the protons and electrons and in that wall and when I push my hand towards that wall those electrically charged particles push against each other and that prevents my hand from going into the wall. And the reason light is emitted reflected or absorbed by objects is because these objects have electric charges. Something without electric charge will be dark and ordinary matter is bright because it has electric charge. 

Let us think about the four forces of known universe

Gravity, Strong Force, Weak force and Electromagnetic Force.

 (as we have discussed Gravity is not really a force but an effect caused by the warping of space time by mass)

The effect of gravity is by far the weakest of these forces, it's basically not measurable in the laboratory we can barely tell there's gravity between atoms; it is extremely feeble. We know that dark matter produces gravitational attraction. So Dark Matter can curve spacetime.

The Strong force glues the protons and neutrons together in the atom. If dark matter interacted through the strong force with with atoms we would have detected it a long time ago 

The weak force only applies in sub-atomic physics and is seen in radioactive decay

Dark matter certainly  cannot interact through the electromagnetic force, that would be too easy.

The thing that terrifies theoretical physicists is if dark matter only interacts with gravity.  This will make it very hard to ever detect and analyse.


Let's look at what properties the potential Dark Matter particle would need to have 

  1.  It obviously must be dark. This means it does not emit any light and doesn't interact with anything to emit light, or any kind of electromagnetic radiation. 

2. it must of course interact through gravity, so it cannot be a zero rest mass particle, like photons. 

3. it must not interact with itself, or interact very weakly with itself. 

4. it must be cold. That is, it is not moving at very high speeds, because if it was, then after the Big Bang, it would have just kept on going, and not slowed down to form halos around ordinary matter. 

5 it must be stable. That is, it does not decay, because if it decayed into other particles, it wouldn't still be here now in such large quantities, 13.7 billion years after the Big Bang. 

In today’s universe, everything that we know of in the universe to date can be expressed as a combination of 6 quarks, 6 leptons and four particles that carry the forces, and the Higgs Boson

let's contemplate for a second whether any of these known types of matter or energy might make up the dark matter.

Well the first thing we can do is rule out anything that feels the electromagnetic force, this makes matters much simpler as it rules out all our quarks and half our leptons.  Now let's carry one step further rule out everything that feels the strong force and again the quarks get ruled out the gluons gone now and we're left with a few options;

 the Z boson, the Higgs boson and the neutrinos

But remember that dark matter that was created after the big bang is still around, so it is either stable or extremely long lived.  So we must send home the Z boson and the Higgs Boson.

 and we're left with only the three particles that are called neutrinos 

These look like reasonable candidates, they are extremely long lived, the most abundant particles in the universe but the trouble is they are much too hot, i.e. fast. They are travelling nearly at the speed of light, that would make them way too light to make up the mass and very fast particles do not clump together in a way necessary to make galaxies.

If we invent a new particle that does not interact with electromagnetism has no strong force nuclear interactions but does interact through the weak nuclear force, and through gravity, then we have just invented the dark matter particle. Scientists have a name for this particle it's WIMP, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particle. Why would this particle need to interact through the weak nuclear force? ...because it turns out that if we ask the question, "what is the rate of interaction of dark matter particle and antiparticle annihilation that you would need to have to give us the correct ratio of dark matter that we observe today?" -- the answer is that they would need to interact with the strength EXACTLY equal to the strength of the weak nuclear force. 

This coincidence is called the "wimp miracle." And it so happens that there is a model in particle physics that predicts exactly such a particle. This model is called supersymmetry. Scientists like the WIMP because it was not invented for the

purpose of solving the dark matter problem, but comes about naturally in string theory. And string theory requires supersymmetry to work. We will be coming back to string theory in a future episode because it is really important theory.

Let us just say today that if supersymmetry is true, then the Dark Matter mystery could be solved, because there would be a perfect candidate for a Dark Matter particle in supersymmetry. And it is called the Neutralino. 

But there is a huge problem with the neutralino, we should have found it by now in the Large Hadron Collider. And so far, we have not. I was so hopeful but this raises a big red flag for the theory. There are still unexplored energies and new experiments are being built to look for it.

 The Axion is the second viable candidate to be the Dark Matter particle. 

There are a couple of reasons why Axions make an attractive Dark Matter particle candidate. First, they do not require the existence of supersymmetry. And they can be placed in the standard model as a much lighter cousin of the higgs boson. But its very low mass would be made up for in very large numbers. If you had a cubic centimeter of space, it would contain roughly one WIMP particle, if WIMPs were dark matter. But if Axions were dark matter, one cubic centimeter of space would contain ten quadrillion, or roughly 10 to the power 16 Axions. Axion experiments are being done in Hamburg, Germany and in CERN. But so far, nothing has been detected. So while scientists have placed big bets that dark matter is likely the WIMP and/or the Axion, no proof, or smoking gun evidence has been found. 

An early hopeful in the Dark Matter stakes was the MACHO. MACHO stands for Massive Compact Halo Object and was one of the first proposed candidates for dark matter. These objects, including neutron stars, and brown and white dwarfs, are composed of ordinary matter. So how could they be invisible? The reason is that they emit very little to no light.

One way to observe them is by monitoring the brightness of distant stars. As light rays bend when they pass close to a massive object, light from a distant source may be focused by a closer object to produce a sudden brightening of the distant object. This effect, known as gravitational lensing, depends on how much matter, both normal and dark, is in a galaxy – we can use it to calculate the amount of matter lurking around. However, we now know it is unlikely that there are enough of these objects, or that they could produce enough baryons that could accumulate to make up the vast amount of dark matter that exists.

This just may be the universe messing with us or perhaps we need a new theory.

This week’s song under the microscope is Grenade by Bruno Mars.

And we have another relationship in trouble. Don’t go off and listen to it, I will try and capture its essence for you. Bruno kisses his girlfriend but she kisses him with her eyes open. Bruno sees this as a sign that a she is a terrible person who will do bad things to him with strong imagery and weak rhymes. These include tossing him in the trash, rip the brakes out of his car, watch him burn and beat him till he is numb. On the other hand Bruno would  jump in front of a train, go through pain, leave his hat in Spain, take a bullet in the brain, get splashed by some rain, drown in a drain, nose dive from a crane, get strangled by a  chain. Now I actually added some of those but there is clearly a perceived imbalance in the relationship. And all this because she kissed him with her eyes open.

The medical condition of not being able to close your eyes is called lagophthalmos. It can be caused by damage to the seventh cranial nerve which controls the muscles of the eyelid. This could be caused by a blunt injury trauma or a stroke. So we have to review this song in a new light. Is Bruno Mars projecting? Did she suffer at his hand, catch one too many grenades, take a bullet in the brain. It is surprising that the things that Bruno Mars says that he would do are all a plausible explanation for her lagophlamos. And here is the final point. How did he know her eyes were open. It doesn’t mention that he was testing a webcam and had left it on and when he reviewed the footage he noticed that her eyes were open. He knew her eyes were open because his eyes were open. What is this a meeting of the Lagophthalmos society? Do they get together and swap eyedrops? All this drama because she was unable to close her eyes and he does the same. What a PSCHO.

And a second bonus song under the microscope is the mysterious Bob Dylan Song, Lay Lady Lay.

In legal journals this is given as the first case of evidence being captured by a smart phone. Bob Dylan was famously smitten with all breads enriched with eggs. On arrival in Nashville in January 1969 he checked into the Nashville Arms and asked for a whole loaf of Brioche to be brought to his room. The message came back that it was not possible as the chicken had not yet laid any eggs. Bob stormed downstairs to the kitchen and grabbed the chicken and stomped with it back to his room. Bob violently shook the bird over his bed whilst screaming at it to lay. Unbeknownst to him his bedroom door was not fully closed and he was filmed on a smartphone, in 1969, abusing this chicken. The police entered the room and demanded an explanation. Bob Dylan said that the bird was his muse and he was writing a song about it. They asked him for the song and he came out with 

“Lay lady Lay, 

“Lay above my big brass bed”

He was told that he would not be charged as long as the song was released, and sure enough Bob Dylan released Nashville Skyline on Feb 14 1969 with the song Lay Lady Lay.

Now we have used genetic techniques to get to the bottom of why the chicken did not lay for Bob.

The second verse starts with “whatever colours you have in your mind”. The colours in its mind refer to the brightly coloured comb on the bird’s head, Bob continues “I’ll show them to you and make them shine”. Bob grabbed the bird and held it high over the bed so it could see itself in the mirror and he shook it to encourage the egg to drop.

In verse five he starts “Why wait any longer for the world to begin?

You can have your cake and eat it too”

And this is true for eggs. He can lay his egg, Bob will use it in a cake and share it with the chicken. The cake here is a brioche. Bob is making a reference to Marie Antoinette oft misquoted Let them eat cake. What she actually said was “Qu'ils mangent de la brioche”, let them eat brioche.

But back to the brightly coloured comb. Here is the clue. Bob had run down to the kitchen grabbed a chicken and took it back to his room. The males and females (rosters and hens) are distinguished in most breeds by the males, the cocks, having a larger comb on the head. No wonder it would not lay. Bob Dylan had inadvertently grabbed a cock not a hen. So Bob Dylan gets filmed shaking his rooster in a hotel room and the world gets compensated by an enduring poultry based ballad.


Now I am required to read out the advert. We started this podcast with strong principles including taking in no advertising money so the we could keep our editorial independence. But we had bills to pay and we started with a new food delivery system in Episode 1 called soup and then suddenly we are the go to location for right wing hate cereal such as Special KKK and the Greggs fat diet to remove your wrinkles. This week though I am hoping to avoid all controversy with our maker of silk and leather luxury goods.

Are you embarrassed to go out because of the cold sores on your face, cover it up with one of our enormous silk scarves from Herpès. Men, want to draw attention from your zitty face get one of our famous spotted Herpès silk ties. Ladies, is your herpes simplex virus making you blue, cheer yourself up with our Herpès Birkin bags. Wear your painful infection ulcers with pride with a belt, bracelet or earrings with our trademark H logo, only from Herpès Paris.

Hat of the Week

In honour of all our wonderful listeners across Asia I dedicate this week’s hat of the week to you. Today we are looking at the Asian conical hat. It is such a perfect design for its function it is no surprise that it is worn throughout East, SouthEast and Southern Asia. They are used for protection from the sun and the rain and if made from straw you can soak them and the evaporation will keep your head cool. The weave and the steep angle of the hat keeps the rain flowing down, like a thatched roof. They are held in place with a ribbon under the chin. And they look absolutely wonderful. Also, historically they have been worn by farmers and nobility. The Japanese Samuri wore them as do Buddhist Monks. They are also popular with young couples shielding their kisses form the public behind this traditional hat during their dates.

Hats will be constructed based on the materials readily available, so palm leaves, bamboo, tree bark. Additionally, for example in Japan, lacquer is applied to helmets of wood, bamboo and paper to waterproof them.

Often the hats have elegant designs either in a fabric covering or painted on the hat.

It astonishes me how something so well designed for the functions of rain and sun protection, plus cooling against the heat can look so beautiful and elegant today, when all the west seems to have down is create a baseball cap.  Sadly, the world’s most popular hat is the baseball cap, not the Asian conical hat. And I for one think that world is a poorer place for that.

A Sauce a Sauce, my Kingdom for a Sauce

This sauce has a few more ingredients than usual but the thing to remember is with a god fresh piece of fish it can be cooked incredibly simply with no work. I served this sauce with some sea bass that I grilled skin side up. I figure on a sauce taking ten times the effort of the fish, but the fish will take very little effort. An intense massively reduced sauce like this will have people discussing it for years to come. It’s all about the sauce.


l tbsp olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

half a head of garlic, split horizontally (unpeeled)

½ tsp coriander seeds

2 red peppers, cored, deseeded and chopped

1 yellow pepper, cored, deseeded and chopped

few tarragon sprigs, roughly chopped

60ml white wine vinegar

250ml Noilly Prat (or other dry vermouth)

250ml vegetable stock 

20g butter, diced


heat the olive oil in a pan and sweat the shallots with the garlic and coriander seeds for 5 minutes until beginning to soften but not brown.

Add the chopped peppers and tarragon and stir over a high heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the wine vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Let bubble until reduced right down and the pan

is quite dry. 

Pour in the vermouth and boil to reduce by two-thirds. 

Pour in the stock and boil until reduced by half. 

Discard the garlic, then tip the contents of the pan into a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds to a rough purée, then strain the sauce  through a muslin-lined sieve into a clean pan. Adjust the seasoning, adding 1 tsp caster sugar to balance the acidity if required.

Set aside until ready to serve.

Special notes for the uncontacted Arrow people of the Amazon Basin, we note that your local supplies of large onions are down but there is an abundant supply of smaller onions and shallots, use the smallest sweetest onions that you can find. Your garlic crop looks good. For Tarragon I am afraid you will need to put an order in at 

And now we have 

Literally the last section

Shakespeare Plays that have aged badly

First we look at the grotesque ramblings that is ‘Measure for Measure’. 

The Duke got tired of ruling Viena so he puts in a vile operations manager called  Angelo. All Angelo wants is to have sex with a nun called Isabella. Isabella does not want to have sex with him, or anyone on account of the whole nun thing. So Angelo says that if she doesn't, he'll kill her brother. 

What would the correct course of action have been

a. Contact HR and make a formal complaint against Angelo

b. Find the  disguised Duke and spend the whole play running around, trying to trick Angelo into having sex with his own girlfriend instead. 

They do b and they succeed — but then at the very end of the play, the Duke decides that he's going to have sex with Isabella instead. After he spent the whole play trying to help her stay celibate. And then the play just ends. Oh, did I mention that this rapefest is a comedy?

Next up is The Winter’s Tale. The Winter’s tale came out shortly after David Attenborough first released life on Earth. In the play Antigonus has to leave the baby princess in the woods to die. But then a bear appears and eats him. How random is that, in the middle of the play, out of nowhere a bear pops up and eats him. The play is literally called The WInter’s Tale. It took place in winter. You know, the season signified by bears hibernating. (oh I can hear you hammering at your keyboards “hang on Ian, this is the play when a statue literally comes to life but it is the Ursine sleeping habits that you object to?” Fair point, irate, fictitious literary scholar. The play does give us the best stage direction ever in theatre “Exit pursued by a bear”, still David Attenborough would have done better.

The violence against women continues with the slasher play that is Titus Andronicus. Demetrius and Chiron violently rape Lavinia then cut off her hands and tongue to stop her revealing her attackers. Lavinia manages to write their names by holding a stick in her mouth. Lavinia’s father, Titus grinds up Demetrius and Chiron and bake them into a pie and fed it to the emperor at a feast. Shakespeare was silent on what sauce was served with the pie.

And finally the best romcom of them all, The Taming of the Shrew. Baptista offers his daughter Catherine to the man who can offer her the most financially. Thus Petruchio acquires a rich but headstrong woman as his bride. At the wedding, he punches the priest and later refuses to attend the family party. He drags his bewildered wife through the mud to his country house, where he starves her, deprives her of sleep and contradicts every word she says. By the time they return to her father's home, the woman is meek and submissive. Yep, it is yet another Shakespearean comedy. Shakespeare, you are a PSYCHO

And that is the end of Literally the Last Section. It is also the end of this week’s podcast. In next week’s Frenzied and Sustained our Brainy lecture looks into String Theory, Our Song Under the Microscope ponders why we are still singing about Polly putting the kettle on and her anti-matter partner Sukey taking it off again two hundred years after they first decided to make tea. And in Literally the last section we will investigate how words come into existence. 

Please visit for the transcript and to click on the link that says ‘Please say Hello’ just to say hello, suggest a sauce, a hat or a song whose meaning eludes you. Please review Frenzied and Sustained on Apple Podcasts.