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Dark Energy: Is It Merely An Illusion?

Date:
September 29, 2008
Source:
American Physical Society
Summary:
Dark energy is at the heart of one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics, but it may be nothing more than an illusion, according physicists at Oxford University.

Changes in the rate of expansion since the universe's birth 15 billion years ago. The more shallow the curve, the faster the rate of expansion. The curve changes noticeably about 7.5 billion years ago, when objects in the universe began flying apart at a faster rate. Astronomers theorize that the faster expansion rate is due to a mysterious, dark force that is pulling galaxies apart.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA/STScI/Ann Feild

Dark energy is at the heart of one of the greatest mysteries of modern physics, but it may be nothing more than an illusion, according physicists at Oxford University.

The problem facing astrophysicists is that they have to explain why the universe appears to be expanding at an ever increasing rate. The most popular explanation is that some sort of force is pushing the accelerating the universe's expansion. That force is generally attributed to a mysterious dark energy.

Although dark energy may seem a bit contrived to some, the Oxford theorists are proposing an even more outrageous alternative. They point out that it's possible that we simply live in a very special place in the universe - specifically, we're in a huge void where the density of matter is particularly low. The suggestion flies in the face of the Copernican Principle, which is one of the most useful and widely held tenets in physics.

Copernicus was among the first scientists to argue that we're not in a special place in the universe, and that any theory that suggests that we're special is most likely wrong. The principle led directly to the replacement of the Earth-centered concept of the solar system with the more elegant sun-centered model.

Dark energy may seem like a stretch, but it's consistent with the venerable Copernican Principle. The proposal that we live in a special place in the universe, on the other hand, is likely to shock many scientists. The maverick physicists at Oxford conclude their paper by pointing out that forthcoming tests of the Copernican principle should help us sort out the mystery in the next few years.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Physical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Timothy Clifton, Pedro G. Ferreira, and Kate Land. Living in a Void: Testing the Copernican Principle with Distant Supernovae. Phys. Rev. Lett., 101, 131302 (2008) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.101.131302

Cite This Page:

American Physical Society. "Dark Energy: Is It Merely An Illusion?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926184749.htm>.
American Physical Society. (2008, September 29). Dark Energy: Is It Merely An Illusion?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926184749.htm
American Physical Society. "Dark Energy: Is It Merely An Illusion?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926184749.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

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