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Dark Energy

Shining Light on Dark Energy

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By David Coppedge

Fifteen years after cosmologists proposed the existence of dark energy, they have learned nothing about it.

In “Cosmology: Out of the Darkness,” Matthew Chalmers discussed the current thinking of Brian Schmidt, who shared the Nobel prize in 2011 for discovering cosmic acceleration (actually, an inference based on light from supernovae; see 9/30/2012).  “Fifteen years after Schmidt’s initial discovery, the ‘dark energy’ invoked to explain this cosmic acceleration is still a mystery,” Chalmers began.

The dark energy proposal brought with it “the most sobering fact in physics,” Chalmers said: the thought that 96% of existence is something we cannot see or understand (dark energy, 73%,  and dark matter, 23%); “their existence is inferred by the effect they have on ordinary matter, but their natures are unknown,” yet they are the primary ingredients of today’s “standard model” of cosmology.  Some have hopes that dark matter will be detected some day, but dark energy represents “a new kind of bafflement,” he wrote.  A cosmologist remarked, “You have no intuition or guidance because the physics is so different to anything we have experienced.”

Brian Schmidt studied the supernovae that led to this “crazy” conclusion.  Before introducing Schmidt’s current views, Chalmers digressed into a brief history of the past decades offerings to explain dark energy: the cosmological constant, the multiverse, and some versions of the anthropic principle.  This has left cosmologists at an impasse despite 7,500 papers with the phrase “dark energy” in the abstract….

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