Are physicists making up dark energy?

13 August 2010

This story was sent in by Gary Gilligan and is interesting as it represents the problem from an astro-physicist that believes dark energy is real rather than a critique from a detractor. He is the author of a popular book and can be read on a regular basis at and as well as the article itself some of the comments following it are also just as interesting – the interaction between supporters of the consensus as opposed to the irreverent. It begins, ‘the idea of dark energy is so ridiculous that almost every question is based on trying to make it go away’ and he continues, ‘ … I don’t want to believe in dark energy, but I have no choice’.

Dark matter is something a bit different. It is easier for cosmologists to live with and has been around for a long time, so much so it is virtually accepted that the universe is made up of a combination of ordinary (visible) matter, and dark matter, and as gravity attracts this should presumably pull the universe together.

The problem appears to lie in red shift and calculations. Supernovae, particularly class 1a (that physicists think they understand) are used to measure the distance of the universe – by their brightness. In 1996 the evidence appeared to indicate the universe was accelerating – not slowing down as theory demanded. The culprit was dubbed ‘dark energy’ – a term which like dark matter, is a terminology used to obscure the fact that astro-physicists have no idea what it is. It is simply a necessity in order to understand what they are seeing, and monitoring – or what they think they are seeing based on what they think they know about class 1a supernovae.

Later, he says that if you want to get rid of dark energy you will also have to get rid of relativity, but continues by saying a better bet is to try and figure out what dark energy actually is. One wonders if detractors of the EU theory are really aware of the uncertainty surrounding cosmology as this is an explicit admission by a well known astro-physicist – not to say the EU theory is necessarily the right interpretation of the phenomena – but it does have legs.

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