Dark energy–the prevailing theory that explains the forces in the universe–may not actually exist. A new paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in February suggests that a unified theory of the universe doesn’t require dark energy, once unique pockets of energy in the universe are factored into the equation.
Theoretical physicists introduced dark energy 20 years ago to explain observed phenomena like the universe expanding at an accelerated rate. No one has ever observed dark energy. It is an abstract concept plugged into a complex mathematical formula to explain the forces in the universe. In the formula dark energy exerts a force on the universe and is thought to make up 68 percent of the energy in the universe.
Einstein’s famous equation, E = MC2, teaches us that matter and energy are interchangeable. Matter and energy are different forms of the same thing. The sun, for example, is powered by the conversion of mass or matter into energy.
Light waves radiate energy and act on matter (as anyone who has been sunburned knows). That sunburn is caused by sun-matter being converted into light or radiation energy. The light waves travel 150 million kilometers to the surface of the skin—burning it with the intensity of the energy.
In the case of the sun, the source of the matter that converts into energy is clear. With dark matter, the source is less obvious. Physicists continue to search for ways to explain both dark matter and what they observe in the universe.
The recent study, led by researchers at the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, suggests that matching precise astronomical observations with the approximated theories of the universe might have created the need for dark energy in the equation.
A hundred years ago, in keeping with physicists’ thinking at the time, Albert Einstein inserted a term called the cosmological constant into his theory of general relativity to force the equations to predict a stationary universe. When it became clear that the universe was expanding, Einstein abandoned the constant, calling it the biggest blunder of his life. But
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