Einstein’s “Greatest Blunder” — Or His Last Laugh?

Einstein’s theory of relativity has survived over a hundred years, having been put to rigorous testing and come out unscathed. But recent conclusions on the accelerating expansion of the universe corroborate a further idea Einstein had posited–and rejected–nearly a century ago.

Big Crunch would be the natural response to this expansion. Once the universe’s expansion slowed, gravity eventually would then pull everything back to center, ending everything in a slow compacting.

But via the Hubble space telescope, astronomers observed in 1998 that the universe’s expansion was accelerating, not slowing down. This threw the Big Crunch into serious doubt. If these observations were confirmed–and most cosmologists now concur–then at some point in the very distant future, only local galaxies would be visible from Earth, as others would have long since drifted off.

Second Nexus
Hubble space telescope via NASA

This discovery also had an effect on the underlying theory of general relativity: Some astronomers now suggest that Einstein’s constant–or something like it–should be reinserted into the equation. Cosmologists now theorize that the observable effect of a more rapidly expanding universe is created by some unknown, repulsive force called “dark energy”–a theoretical energy field that, while never actually been observed, is sufficient to overpower the pull of gravity. It is dark energy that is causing the universe to expand ever and ever quicker.

Could Einstein’s cosmological constant be re-substituted in for the effect of dark, repulsive energy? Some argue that a new “fudge factor” to account for dark energy is needed, and that while a constant density and the expanding volume of the universe means

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