The internet is alive again with another cry that dark matter is dead (again) and the slashdot-eratti are getting themselves into the usual lather and "DM is BS" claims.
I've written my views on slashdot commenting previously, and will not reiterate them here, but will comment on the paper and the "meaning" of dark matter to astronomers.
OK. The paper can be read here and here's the press image that goes with it.
So, the big question is why? The prevailing hypothesis is that there is more mass there than we can see, i.e. dark matter. But others suggest that dark matter is not there, and there is some other influence, usually by modifying the laws of physics (i.e. MOND) which accounts for the extra acceleration which is needed to give the larger speeds.
The current paper suggests that the extra acceleration comes from the attraction of mass in the local universe *outside* of the galaxy. Those that remember their classes on Newtonian physics will remember that if you sit inside a spherical shell of mass, you do not feel any gravitational pull from the mass. But this paper says "well matter is not smooth but is lumpy" and the author, Carati, tries to calculate the influence of this lumpiness.
This is all quite legit, but it turns out the calculations are very difficult, so instead of directly calculating the influence, he calculates some average effect. What happens is the "average" effect modifies the gravitational attraction in galaxies and so looks like this
But, hold your horses. Is everything as excellent as it seems? Well, no. Firstly, we knew we could get this model to work in some galaxies as it basically looks extremely similar to the mathematical form of MOND, and we know that works in some galaxies (and so, in some sense, we knew the answer beforehand). And remember that we have taken some sort of averaging effect, rather than calculating the actual effect, and, as it is stochastic should be stochastic and I can't imagine that it will give a smooth influence on the galaxy.
Are the religious, dark matter zealots up in arms, calling for Carati's head for daring to suggest that the god of dark matter may not exist? Well, no. While the majority of scientists will be nowhere near convinced by this one paper, Carati is free to do whatever research they want to, and I am sure they know that if they want to convince us that their model is viable, the maths needs to be worked out, and then they must show that their model explains everything that dark matter does; from gravitational lensing, big-bang nucleosynthesis, hot gas in clusters etc etc.
Again, scientists don't believe in dark matter. Currently all the evidence points to a material substance explaining what we see out there in the Universe, and so people are heavily weighted into using this particular model. But if we woke up tomorrow and some one has convincing proved that dark matter as a substance can be conclusively ruled out, there will be no wailing and gnashing of teeth, and most scientists will say "oh, that's interesting! what more does that tell us about the Universe". Science will move on. And I am sure the Slashdotters will tell us "we told you so!".