brand, community, culture, dark matter


Only about 4% of the total energy density in the universe can be seen directly.
About 96% is thought to be composed of dark matter or dark energy.

July 2009: See my update on the topics covered in this post here.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of dark matter for a while. But it was actually hearing about this thing called the Large Hadron Collider that helped me make the connection between what I do for a living and this concept of dark matter.

largehadronThe Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle accelerator. It was built on the border of France and Switzerland and is about 17 miles long. One of the things that particle physicists hope to prove with this enormous project is that dark matter actually exists. As I understand it, the accelerator shoots protons at super high speeds around the collider, and, if these scientists are lucky, it eventually might produce a few wacky particles that will exist for only a few milliseconds and then disappear again. And these particles might prove that dark matter isn’t just a theory.

Might being the key word. In fact, Stephen Hawking has bet $100 that they won’t find anything.

Total cost to maybe prove the existence of dark matter? Between $4-8 billion dollars. And as of when I wrote this, the Large Hadron Collider isn’t even working. It broke the first time they tried to run it and it won’t be fixed until later this year.

Another attempt to prove the existence of dark matter used the Hubble Space Telescope. The picture below (which is also the picture I chose for the header on this blog) was taken by Hubble and first shown by NASA in May, 2007.

darkmatter2 In this picture, you are looking at a bunch of galaxies a really, really long way away. But you can also see a bunch of fuzzy gray areas all over that look like clouds. When the astronomers first looked at this photo, they thought the fuzzy areas were a problem with the image. But after analyzing it for over a year, they realized that the fuzziness might actually be evidence of dark matter.

Their reasoning? The fuzziness is actually a gravitational distortion of the light rays from distant galaxies that are being bent by dark matter on their way to Earth. The effect you see is kind of like looking at the bottom of a pond that is being distorted by ripples on the surface.

So finally! Some real visual evidence of dark matter. It’s the fuzzy stuff! Or rather it is something invisible that is causing the fuzzy stuff.

So now that we have proof dark matter exists, the galaxies can go back to moving and rotating and expanding… oh wait… they never stopped.

So that’s kinda my point here. In this day and age where ROI analysis and complex metrics and proof of effectiveness are all necessary in order to get budgets approved, we should never forget that there are things out there that are having an enormous impact that are difficult, or sometimes impossible to measure. And they will continue to have an impact, whether we measure them or not.

At Red Hat, this has been especially important. We don’t really have a bunch of intellectual property we can protect. We sell free software–anyone can copy the source code to our products and distribute it as their own. One of the few assets we can protect is our brand. And one way we have built a brand and a company with a very impressive P/E ratio for our industry is by investing in intangibles: Brand, Culture, and Community.

In this blog, I’d like to share some examples of our work in these areas.

About Chris Grams

Chris Grams is Head of Marketing at Tidelift. He is also the author of The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Successful Brand Positioning in a Digital World.

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